Ghana’s Black Maidens have accomplished their first mission of topping their group and qualifying for the quarter-finals of the 2018 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay.
The Maidens finished on top of Group A with a perfect record after three straight wins against Uruguay (5-0), Finland (2-1) and New Zealand (2-0).
Tomorrow, they begin the next phase of their campaign with a quarter-final clash against Mexico at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo with an eye on a semi-final ticket.
Although Ghana coach Evans Adotey is confident that his girls can overcome the Mexicans, he is treading with caution by showing respect for their South American opponents.
Twice under his guidance, the Maidens failed to progress beyond the quarter-final stages at the 2014 and 2016 tournaments, but this time, with the experience on his side, Adotey believes he will be third time lucky in Uruguay.
“The girls are peaking at the right time and I am satisfied with our performance so far.
We face Mexico next and we are cautious in our approach.
On paper we look the better side at this competition, but the knockout stage is quite different and we won’t be over confident or take chances,” Coach Adotey said.
On the strength of their performance so far, the scales tilt in favour of Maidens having scored nine goals and conceded just one in three games.
In captain Mukarama Abdulai, Ghana have the competition’s leading marksman with six goals in three games and on the evidence so far, the young striker looks poised to unleash her scoring threat on the Mexicans on Sunday as a semi-final ticket and the Golden Shoe prize look very strong motivation for the Ghana captain.
For Mexico, who finished second on the Group B log after a win, 1-0 against Brazil and two draws with South Africa (0-0) and Japan (1-1), they will fancy their chances against another African side.
It will be the first time the two sides are meeting at this competition and they both bring a wealth of experience into the game.
Apart from the 2008 tournament that they failed to qualify, the Latin Americans have been to every FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Just like Ghana, the Mexicans exited at the group phase in their first two appearances but subsequently made it to the quarter-finals in the 2014 and 2016 tournaments.
Comparatively, the Black Maidens have a richer record as five times participants and bronze medallists in 2012, having previously exited at the group stage in 2008 and 2010, and quarter-finalists in 2014 and 2016.
On a balance, the Maidens go into Sunday’s match as the favourites, but they must be careful not to be carried away by their explosive start.
Instead, they should brace up for, perhaps, their biggest test so far at the knockout stage as they seek to move to the last four of the competition and closer to the medal zone.
Typical of Coach Adotey, he will not give any hint of who will make it in the starting line, but this time instead of being so sure about just his captain, he tells The Mirror that he is sure of two players starting: Mukarama and Grace Animah, both of whom have picked the Player of the Match awards; the captain in the first two games and the hardworking midfielder in the final group match.
In the other quarter-final game for tomorrow, New Zealand will come up against Japan, who finished top of Group B.