Ghana’s U-20 men’s national team, the Black Satellites find themselves in group C with Tanzania, Morocco and Gambia.
Ghana qualified to the tournament after beating Burkina Faso 2-1 in the final of the West African Football Union (WAFU) Zone B Championship last year.
Karim Zito’s men will be targeting a fourth U-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title in Mauritania.
To achieve that, the Black Satellites will have to finish in the top two of group C to assure themselves of a place in the final four.
Here’s all you need to know about Ghana’s opponents in group C:
This is the first time Tanzania are qualifying for the competition and adopt the underdog tag in the group.
The east African side topped their group in the preliminary stages of the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) qualifiers.
Tanzania won both games against Djibouti and Somalia scoring 14 goals to ensure qualification to the semi-finals of the qualifiers.
A slender 1-0 win over South Sudan in the semi-finals saw the Tanzanians qualify for the U-20 AFCON for the first time ever.
The next step was for Tanzania to lift the trophy in the final. A step that was beyond their reach as they were touted 4-1 by giants Uganda.
Regardless, history was made as a second-place finish was enough to secure a place in the U-20 finals at Mauritania for the Tanzanians.
Kelvin Pius John is a player to keep an eye on. The 17-year-old scored three goals in the qualifiers for Tanzania.
He was named in the 2020 edition of the Guardian’s next best 60 young talents in world football and has already scored his first goal for the senior national team.
Morocco are one of 10 teams to have to won the U-20 AFCON in its 42-year history.
Their sole triumph came in 1997 but have failed to qualify for the final since. The closest the North African country have come has been a fourth-place finish in 2005.
The Moroccans will be desperate to land their hands on the trophy once again. They come into the tournament on the back of a very successful qualification process which saw them top the Union of North African Football Federations (UNAF) qualifiers.
The qualifiers which was hosted in Tunisia saw five teams placed in one group with the winners and the runners-up qualifying for the final tournament.
Five points in three games was enough for Morocco to finish top. A crucial victory against Algeria was pivotal in sealing qualification to Mauritania.
The defensive unit of the Moroccans was impressive in qualifiers conceding one goal in three games. Central defender Adil Tahif is a player who could bring stability to Zakaria Aboub’s side.
The 19-year-old has played nine games for C.D Leganes ‘B’ this season, scoring one goal so far and will be key for Aboub in Mauritania.
Gambia’s best finish in the U-20 AFCON is a third-place finish in 2007 when they beat Zambia 3-1 in the Republic of Congo.
The West African country defied all odds to snatch the WAFU Zone A single ticket to Mauritania for their fifth ever appearance.
The Gambians revived themselves after losing their first game 5-1 to favourites Senegal. They went on to beat Sierra Leone, a win that was enough to send Gambia to the semi-finals.
Gambia then beat Guinea 2-1 in the semi-finals but still needed to win the final to qualify for the U-20 AFCON tournament.
The miracle was completed as Gambia managed to beat Senegal on penalties after drawing 2-2 in regulation time.
“I am sure this is a surprise for a lot of people. Few people believed in our ability to win this trophy except the staff, the players and our families,” Gambia coach Mattar Mboge explained after his side’s triumph.
Captain of the Young Scorpions James Gomez, who memorably hoisted the WAFU Zone A trophy last year is one to watch.
Gomez, who played for AC Horsens in the Danish top flight bounced back from an opening match red card against Senegal to help his team secure the championship and a place in the U-20 AFCON.
Following his exploits in Senegal. Gomez returned to Horsens to make his loan move to Horsens permanent by signing a four-year contract after a string of impressive performances.
The Black Satellites will clash with Tanzania in their opening game on February 16 before playing Morocco and Gambia in subsequent group games.
Source: Ghana News