The Ghana national U-17 football team known as the Black Starlets, the youngest team that represents Ghana in football make a return to the FIFA World Cup after exactly a decade of not qualifying to the tournament. The Black Starlets are taking on The Colombian U17 team who are also staging the fifth appearance in the competition.
The Starlets won the FIFA U-17 World Cup twice – in 1991 and 1995 under the stewardship of German coach Otto Pfister and the late Ghanaian Coach Sam Arday. The last time the Black Starlets played in the World Cup was in 2007 when South Korea hosted the tourney, Ghana placed 4th.
Early this year in May, the Black Starlets were pipped by the defending champions in their quest to lift the U-17 Afcon trophy for the first time in eighteen years. Ghana suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Mali in the final of the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations in Gabon
FIFA U-17 World Cup record
The 1990s were a truly remarkable era for the Black Starlets, winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup twice – in 1991 and 1995 – reaching four out of five finals and finishing third in the 1999 edition. Some of the starlets from the 1990s, including Samuel Kuffour, Stephen Appiah and Michael Essien, would go on to represent the senior side at the FIFA World Cup™ in the 2000s. Since those heady days though, except for a semi-final berth in 2007, the Ghanaians have had something of a barren run, reaching the global showpiece just twice in the last seven attempts.
Road to India
The two-time champions reached their first U-17 World Cup for a decade in, at times, stop-start circumstances. After edging Burkina Faso 6-5 over two legs in the second round of qualification, they saw off Côte d’Ivoire to progress to the CAF Africa U-17 Cup of Nations in Gabon. Once there, they hit their stride, defeating Cameroon 4-0 and the hosts 5-0, the latter result securing their spot as the first African side on the plane to India 2017. After that, the Ghanaians did not score again in regulation time, drawing 0-0 with Guinea in their final group game and with Niger in the semi-finals, winning on penalties to reach the final, where they lost 1-0 to Mali.
Former Asante Kotoko and Accra Hearts of Oak coach Paa Kwesi Fabin took charge of the Black Starlets in October 2011, meaning he has reached the U-17 World Cup at the third time of asking. Despite a strong showing in Gabon, he has hinted at alterations for India 2017. “We will surely make some additions to the squad before the World Cup,” he said. “We had some of the guys who got injured, which prevented them from joining the team in Gabon. We hope to get these boys and we will also do more scouting to try and get a few others as well.”
9 - goals scored by Ghana at Gabon 2017, to add to their nine scored in the qualifiers. No teams scored more at the CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations finals, despite the Black Starlets failing to score in their final four hours at the tournament.