Satellites poised to stop Portugal
Two of the remaining 16 teams at the ongoing Fifa U20 World Cup in Turkey, Ghana and Portugal, do battle on Wednesday to determine which among the pair earns a ticket to the quarter-finals.
The nations' path to the present round could not have been more contrasting. While Portugal eased to the top of their group with two wins (including the tournament's highest scoreline thus far, a 5-0 mauling of Cuba) and a draw, Ghana laboured via a complex sequence of permutations that saw them pip Egypt, among a few others, to the last of the four slots allocated the best third-placed sides.
The above aside, there is little to choose between the two teams, both former winners of the competition, having each contested three finals, with the Portuguese enjoying just one triumph more.
Portugal coach Edgar Borges would hope his team continues with its good form, keeping with its fine tradition at this level of men's football, with the likes of Bruma (the tournament's leading scorer on five strikes) and Aladje leading a potent attack.
His opposite number and winning coach of the competition's 2009 edition, Sellas Tetteh, has seen his Black Satellites improve as the tournament has progressed, following up on a 3-1 defeat to France in the opener with a good performance in their next outing that restricted favourites Spain to a narrow 1-0 win, before thumping the USA 4-1 in the final group game. With the likes of Ebenezer Assifuah rising to form just in time to propel what remains of Ghana's campaign and the Satellites' defence growing more stable, Ghana actually do stand a fair chance.
DID YOU KNOW?
The last time - the only time, in fact - that the two nations faced off at the U20 World Cup, Ghana ran out 2-0 winners and went on to play in the final.
Five of Portugal's 21 players at the tournament - Bruma, Aladje, Tomas Dabo, Agostinho Ca, and Edgar Ie - at the tournament are from Guinea Bissau, Ghana's neighbouring west African state.
When Portugal and Ghana meet on Wednesday, it would be the second time at the ongoing tournament that either side would be playing against west African and Iberian sides respectively at Turkey 2013, having played Nigeria and Spain prior in their individual groups.
Ghana's record at the U20 World Cup is so impressive that should they make it to the quarter-finals by eliminating Portugal and even fail to make any further progress, they would only have equaled their worst showing at the competition.
Prior to their loss in the tournament's opener to France, Ghana had never lost a game at the U20 World Cup's group stage football.