Ghana and Gambia will face off for the second time at the Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Mauritania when the two West African side clash at the Olympic Stadium in Nouakchott on Monday in the first semi-final.
The two teams played against each other in the group stages where Gambia came from a goal down to beat the Black Satellites 2-1 and earn an automatic spot in the quarter finals, with Ghana dropping to third but squeezing through as one of the best two third placed teams.
They meet up for the second time with a higher target to hunt; a place in the final.
Ghana who are playing in the tournament for the 12th time are seeking to clinch a fourth African Under-20 title while Gambia are looking to get into the podium for only the second time in their history.
The last time they came close to the trophy was in 2007 when they finished off in third place.
As a country, Ghana comes into the Monday evening tie with bigger pedigree. They have won the AFCON U20 title three times, lost in a final twice and finished third twice as well. The last time they were in the podium was in 2015.
Apart from doing well in Continental level, the Black Satellites are also world beaters, having won the FIFA Under-20 World Cup once, in 2009 skippered by Andre Ayew and finished third in 2013.
Expectation will be high from Kumasi to Tamale for the Black Satellites to ‘bring the love back’ as their war cry has been.
For the Gambia under head coach Mattar M’Boge, they will have their eyes on history, looking for a first ever Continental title. Under coach M’Boge, the Young Scorpions won the 2018 WAFU tournament for a first ever youth trophy.
They are playing the continental tournament for only the third time, but the tactician has affirmed that they will be driven by the spirit of teamwork and the urge to win something for two of their fallen legends; former Scorpions striker Alhaji Momodo Njie alias Biri Biri and coach Sulayman Kuyateh.
Road to the semis:
The Black Satellites landed in the semi finals after overcoming a tough Cameroon side on penalties in the quarters. They had come from a goal down to level scores at 1-1 in extra time to force the game into penalties.
In the group stages, they thrashed Tanzania 4-0 in their opening match before drawing 0-0 against Morocco and eventually losing to Gambia in a game in which they conceded for the first time in the tournament.
The Gambians finished second in Group C, the final day 2-1 victory over the Ghanaians in Nouadhibou earning them a direct slot into the last eight. Prior, they had lost to Morocco by a solitary goal and drawn 1-1 with Tanzania.
They are the only side to progress to the semi-finals without the need of penalties, having cleanly beaten the Central Africa Republic 3-0 at the Olympic Stadium in Nouakchott.
They have progressed to the semis after scoring six goals and conceding three.
Players to watch:
Percious Boah and Abul Fatawu Issakaku were quiet against a physically present Cameroon in the quarter finals but coming up against another ball playing team, they might as well bounce to life. Both have two goals so far in the competition and will be the centre of attention for Gambian defenders.
Coach M’Boge is a lover of the passing kind of game and his team is full of players who are good on the ball. Drammeh Kajally is one of the players whose skills on the ball is unquestionable and his two assists in the quarter final win over CAR proved that he is one of the classiest players in the Gambian side.
Lamarana Jallow, man of the match in the win over CAR has been a conductor in midfield, running all over the park and making most of the key passes in the Gambian final third. Modou Bojang with two goals so far in the competition is also one to watch for the Ghanaians.
Both Drammeh and Jallow scored against Ghana in the 2-1 group phase win.