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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 September 2005, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Reality check for Africa
Tim Vickery
BBC Sport, Peru

Gambia's under-17 football team
African champions Gambia won two matches in Group D.

Africa's previous Under-17 World Championship successes failed to lead on through to triumph at senior level.

In hindsight, perhaps the euphoria following Nigeria's triumphs in 1985 and 1993 and Ghana's successes in 1991 and 1995 was misplaced.

Now, in defeat, with neither Ghana, Ivory Coast or Gambia having made it through the group stages, there is no need for an excess of despair.

It should never be forgotten that the primary function of these tournaments is to groom players for the future.

The three African nations have all had a week of invaluable international experience and all should now be able to go on to form good under-20 sides, providing a process is put in place and the lessons of Peru are digested.

In the case of Ivory Coast, priority must be given to developing a more solid method of defence as they gave goals away with an ease that always put their attack under pressure.

At times they lacked presence in the opposing penalty area, but some of their passing was a joy to watch.

Their undoubted star was Serge Kouadio, who came with the nickname of 'the crazy dribbler' but showed that he is much more.

His technique is so good that he can receive the ball with his head up, looking around for options and giving continuity to the play, and he promises to go on to be an important player for Ivory Coast at senior level.

In fact, he is exactly the type of player who would improve Gambia's and Ghana's teams. Both were much more solid than Ivory Coast, but they lacked an extra piece of playmaking quality.

Ghana's under-17 football team
Ghana drew all three Group A matches and failed to reach the last eight

They are sides who are continually looking to force, rather than play, their way through the opposing defence.

Someone like Kouadio, with his ability to change the rhythm of the game, would be an excellent addition.

Ghana were unbeaten while Gambia have two victories, including the 3-1 defeat of Brazil, to look back on.

The Ghanaians' most impressive player was big centre-back Jonathan Quartey, who was the rock of the team's defence.

At the other end of the field, striker Sadat Bukari looks an interesting prospect and had he been fit to face Costa Rica, the tournament could have taken a happier course for the Black Starlets.

In his absence, Ghana's sole attacking idea was to shoot from long range but he added more cohesion to the side when he played, especially in the final third of the field.

Gambia's strike partnership of Ousman Jallow and Momodou Ceesay was their team's highlight.

Jallow was especially good in the air, flicking on headers behind the opposing defence for his team-mates to chase and Ceesay, despite his crucial penalty miss, was one of the stars of the tournament.

Toweringly tall, but suprisingly nimble, he terrified defenders with his surging runs down the right channel and though his left foot needs some work, he certainly has the potential to become a big name.

For all the disappointment of the Baby Scorpions' early exit, Gambian football has now shown itself to the world, and it is up to the players, coaches and administrators to keep the momentum going.

One thing they will have to learn to do is stay on their feet when they defend. Both Gambia and Ghana suffered from picking up straight red cards for wild two footed tackling and their respective players and coaches seemed surprised.

This type of challenge is clearly considered part of the game in African football but Fifa is clamping down on the two-footed tackle and Africa would do well to step in line.

Africa will have to stay on its feet in defence and keep its head on the ground to learn the lessons of the past week.

If the Africans can do so, then Peru 2005 will not have been a disaster.

Instead, it might prove to be an important part of the process of the continent making its first serious challenge to win the senior World Cup.




SEE ALSO
Dutch end Gambia's dream in Peru
24 Sep 05 |  African
Ivory Coast 0-3 North Korea
21 Sep 05 |  African
Ghana crash out after China draw
23 Sep 05 |  African


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