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Black Storm Rising

Posted August. 22, 2007 06:20,   


Africa is becoming a mighty soccer force.

This year’s U-17 World Cup kicked off on August 18, and by August 20, the 24 participating countries had all played their first games of the tourney.

The results of these matches offer a rosy outlook for many African teams. Nigeria and Ghana, winners of 2 of the previous 12 U-17 World Cups, played like cup-winning teams in the preliminary round as well.

Group F’s Ghana beat Trinidad and Tobago, 4-1. Trinidad and Tobago had finished the preliminary round in second place, but players like Ransford Osei, who contributed two goals, overwhelmed the team. Not only did Ghana show decisiveness, it also had fast attacks from the side and fluid ball dribbling skills. The youth players looked just as good as Ghana’s adult players playing in the big leagues in Europe.

Group D’s Nigeria beat France, and Group E’s Tunisia beat Belgium, 4-2. Togo, which is in the same group as Korea, tied 1-1 with Costa Rica, but the team definitely played a superior game. The four African teams recorded three wins and one tie to lead all continents.

Group B’s Brazil, which won the cup a record setting three times, was also strong. Fabinho scored a goal nine seconds into the match, the fastest goal in FIFA history. Six others followed. The seven goals were scored by different players. This highlights the strength of the Brazilian team.

Meanwhile, Group C’s Argentina, which was another South American favorite, tied with Syria. Argentina’s offense showed indecision and the team did not possess the kind of skills the adult team shows on a regular basis.

Asia did fairly well. Even though Korea, the host of this year’s games, lost to Peru, Group D’s Japan beat Haiti 3-1 and Group E’s Tajikistan beat the U.S. 4-3 in a turnaround victory. Syria has emerged as a dark horse team after drawing with the highly regarded Argentina team.

European teams have been disappointing. France and Belgium lost. Group F’s Germany and Group B’s England played difficult games against Columbia and North Korea, respectively, and only tied. Only Group C’s Spain, which traditionally does well in youth games, won.