Penalty shootout. The two most dreaded words of any Ghanaian football fan. The fear is not only from the nail-biting experience of watching your team play in a shootout but rather from the past experiences of Ghanaian teams.
In recent years, Ghana have been on the wrong side of penalty shootouts especially in the final of major competitions. On Sunday, the whole nation came crumbling into a state of disappointment after the Black Stars B lost to Senegal on penalties in the 2019 WAFU Nations Cup.
The disappointment was shrugged off as the feeling was quite familiar and probably did not hurt so much now.
Four years ago in Equatorial Guinea, the Black Stars came so close to ending their long-wait for an Africa Cup of Nations title but fell at the final hurdle courtesy “the two most dreaded words”.
This one, probably hurt the most because Ivory Coast missed their first two penalties, leaving Ghana dreaming about the gold plated trophy.
Maybe, the players dreamt too soon as the sense of euphoria rather eclipsed the Black Stars as Ghana went on to lose the final after missing three kicks.
In the midst of all these unsatisfactory performances in finals, there is still one positive penalty shootout which has been engrained in the minds and DNA of every Ghanaian.
It may not have been the senior side, but exactly 10 years ago today, Ghana’s U-20 side won the World Cup after a penalty shootout success. A moment that holds its place in football history because till date Ghana remains the only African side to lift the trophy.
Ghana went the entirety of the tournament without tasting defeat, however, that wasn’t the most impressive feat by the Black Satellites. To win the trophy, Sellas Tetteh’s men had to face a star-studded Brazilian side with the likes of Douglas Costa, Giuliano, Paulo Henrique Ganso, Souza, Alex Teixeira and Alan Kardec in their ranks.
To make matters worse, Daniel Addo was sent off in the first half. Ghana held off their Brazilian counterparts for approximately 83 minutes (including extra time) with the help of 67,814 fans at the Cairo International Stadium who cheered anytime the Black Satellites crossed the halfway line.
Most people remember Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu as the hero and quite rightly so because the midfielder’s penalty was the decisive one. His effort had the ink that wrote Ghana’s name on the U-20 World Cup trophy.
If that shootout was a building, Agyemang-Badu would be synonymous with the furnishing and roofing. How about those who built the foundation?
Captain of the side Andre Ayew stepped up to play the first penalty for Ghana. There was an extra bit of pressure on Ayew because Alan Kardec had already scored for Brazil. Regardless, Ayew confidently blasted his penalty to the left side of the Brazilian keeper who got the direction right but failed to make contact.
Up stepped Samuel Inkoom who had been nothing short of sensational this tournament. Eyebrows were raised because usually, defenders do not play penalties in the early stages of a shootout. Inkoom never looked fazed throughout his long walk from the centre circle as the right-back sent the keeper the wrong way, placing his shot to the right side of the goal.
Things moved from bad to worse as Jonathan Mensah and Bright Addae missed consecutive penalties to sink Ghana’s hopes. The latter was aged just 16 years making him Ghana’s youngest player at the tournament.
Ghana’s woes were softened as Brazil missed three successive penalties with Daniel Agyei saving two of them to give the advantage to the Black Satellites.
Then came the man himself, the one everyone remembers, Agyemang-Badu. His close to 50 meter walk was interrupted as he approached the penalty spot with goalkeeper Agyei hugging the midfielder to help calm his nerves.
The referee rolled the ball to Agyemang-Badu who skilfully lifted the ball with his right foot straight into his right palm in an unorthodox fashion. He placed the ball on the spot with the weight of not just a nation but a continent on his shoulder.
He stole a glance at the referee, took seven steps back, a number believed to have a good spiritual connotation. Agyemang-Badu chose a slow run-up which saw him stutter after his fourth step, a move that probably displaced the Brazilian keeper. His calmly placed low short went to the right side of the goal as the keeper knelt helplessly in the middle of the goal.
Agyemang-Badu took off his shirt in disbelief as he run around with great excitement and struggling to come to terms with the fact that Ghana had just made history. Sellas Tetteh, the mastermind behind this remarkable achievement had his head buried in his hands as he couldn’t believe his eyes.
Ghana was proud, Africa was proud and most importantly, the whole world was proud.