The West African Football Union(WAFU) under-17 Championship enters the semi-finals after some electric games in the group stages. The group stage produced a staggering forty-one(41) goals in nine(9) games, an average of 4.5 goals per match. Five of the forty-one goals came from direct free kicks with Michael Emmanuel(Nigeria), Yan Diamonde(Cote D’Ivoire), Ousmane Camara(Burkina Faso), Komi Ahouankpo(Togo) and Nambagui Soro (Cote D’Ivoire) spectacularly scoring from direct free kicks. Cote D’Ivoire’s Yan Diamonde and Burkina Faso’s Ousmane Camara top the scorers chart with three goals.
Three teams were drawn into Group A – Ghana(hosts), Nigeria and Togo. Nigeria emerged winners of the group after Anthony Ugbade’s side beat the host in the opening game 4-2. They went on to seeing off Togo 3-1 in their second fixture. Ghana however showed character to recover from the defeat to Nigeria to beat Togo 3-0 in a second place decider to finish second.
Group B had more drama and that’s probably because unlike group A, group B had four teams. Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger were drawn in group B. Burkina Faso topped the group with a perfect record after beating Niger 2-1, Benin 2-1 and completing a remarkable comeback, recovering from 2-0 to beat Cote D’Ivoire 4-2 in their final group game. Niger who lost their opening two games beat Benin in the last group game to drag them home with them. The result favoured Cote D’Ivoire who clinched second place in group B and qualify to the semis.
On Tuesday, 21st July 2022, Nigeria will face Cote D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso will come up against Ghana for a place in final of the WAFU ZONE B U-17 Championship. Group winners Nigeria and Burkina Faso will both go into their respective games as favourites after their impressive showing in the group phase. Meanwhile, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire will hope the defeats they suffered in the group stages were the last of their bad games in the tournament.
WHAT SHOULD GHANA EXPECT FROM BURKINA FASO?
• Players to keep an eye on
Ousmane Camara(7) – Joint top scorer in the tournament with three goals in three games. The winger has a great burst of pace and the ability to weave through defenders with great skill and strength. He was man of the match against Cote D’Ivoire.
Cheick Camara (10) – He is arguably the best passer of the ball in the side. His ability for receive the ball from his defence or midfield under pressure is impressive. Camara has a very good passing range and does not need second invitation to send his wingers on their bikes.
Appolinaire Bougma(11) – Bougma won the man of the match award after Burkina Faso’s win over Niger with a remarkable performance. He has two goals in the tournament so far. The wingers is very comfortable on both feet, an ability that makes him difficult for defence to predict his next move.
Farouk Ouattara(5) – The Burkinabe skipper has throughout the tournament shown great energy in the way he has executed his box-to-box role. He often arrives on the edge of the opponent’s box to pick loose balls and latch onto them and in flash appear on the edge of his to clear his lines.
Souleymane Alio (18) – The intelligent striker has the ability to drop deep and influence his team’s attacking build-up. Almost every thing runs through him. His link up play with his midfielders open often the opposition defence up.
There are other players who deserve mention in the team too but these five talented Burkinabe’s have got what it takes to cause problems for Ghana
Probable Line-up and System and Attacking Threat
Isidore Traore is expected to be in post with a back four of Nouhoun Bamba, Chieck Compaore, Landry Yameogo and Toh Lankouande. Farouk Outtara and Arouna Outtarra will protect the back four as the double pivot. Ousmane Camara will provide width on the right and Appolinaire Bougma on the left. The hole behind the striker, Souleymane Alio will be filled by Chieck Camara.
Ibrahima Traore, coach of Burkina Faso made only two changes to the team that beat Niger in their opening game, left-back Emian Brou and striker Abdramane Ouedragogo made way for Toh Lankouande and Souleymane Alio respectively for their win against Benin in the second game. In the final group game against Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso lined up as they did against Benin.
Burkina Faso are expected to see a lot of the ball in this game as they’ve done in all their games. That is why it is important for Ghana to be aware how they behave in possession. Burkina Faso like to draw their opponents out by using their striker Souleymane Alio. While at it they keep both wingers (Bougma and Ousmane Camara) narrow. Alio(striker) drops deep often drawing one centre back out of position. It sometimes forces the opponents back line to step up, leaving spaces for the wide men to run in behind. In their build up to the opener against Benin, Alio dropped deep to pick the ball which drew Benin’s center back Abdalath Baboni out of the defensive block as we see in the first frame below.
Alio is allowed to turn and switch play to find Ousmane Camara on the far side. On the near side, Bougma made his way into the space Baboni had vacated on the blind side of Montcho to meet the cross from Camara for Burkina Faso’s opener.
This animation became even more evident when they took on Cote D’Ivoire in the final gtoup game. In the frame below, Alio drops closer to his teammate Chieck Camara and with him is the Ivorian center back N’goran who sees the need to get tight to the striker. However Alio holds him off to allow Cheick Camara to get on the ball.
The striker spins past N’goran into the space behind him. The center back then tried to cut out a pass aimed at Ousmane Camara from Cheick Camara but failed. The movement of Alio without touching the ball in the process unlocked Cote D’Ivoire’s defence. Burkina Faso got in behind them but couldn’t make the most of it.
A similar scenario plays out moments later and this time Alio gets on the ball in the center circle – yes that is how deep he is willing to drop and take a defender with him. With him was N’goran who did not get tight enough to stop the striker from turning. Alio found the space and time to turn and picked out Ousmane Camara who overrun the ball to give Cote D’Ivoire a sigh of relief.
The next couple of frames shows Alio at it again. The striker dropped deeper and into the semi circle of the center circle in his own half. As you might have realized by now, anytime he dropped deep Bougma and Ousmane Camara, the two wingers started running narrow and in behind the backline.
He had time and space to turn but he fed the ball into Chieck Camara instead. The midfielder’s first time pass over the top found Ousamane Camara whose first touch to control the ball was brilliant to send him though on goal. A touch so good it sent him one-on-one with Ulriech Okpo, the Ivorian goalkeeper. The winger tried to dink one over the goalkeeper but couldn’t find enough elevation to get the ball over Okpo who stood tall and made himself big to make the save.
This coupled with other factors could be why Coach Troare since bringing him on as a substitute in the first game against Niger has rewarded him with a start in their last two games. Meanwhile Abdramane Ouedraogo whose place Souleymane Alio took has been a used substitute for Burkina Faso in their last two games. The tall striker adds a different dimension to his sides game. His new role as an impact sub is worth keeping an eye on.
Burkina Faso resort to long balls in the last fifteen minutes of games, probably because teams around that time of the game lose concentration when fatigue sets in. It is around this time that Ouedraogo gets his turn to use his aerial ability and physicality.
In the next frame you will see Ouedraogo playing high up the pitch and between defenders . That is unlike Alio who would have dropped into the space in front of N’goran. His presence up the field makes him a target for the long ball from his side.
As the long ball comes into the half of Cote D’Ivoire, Ouedraogo uses his physicality and aerial ability to flick it behind the Ivorian backline and into the path of Aboubacar Camara on the far side. Ousmane Camara on the near side breaks into the space ahead of him to receive a pass for a simple tap in.
It remains unclear how Ghana going to set up in this fixture. In their opening game against Nigeria, Ghana played with a three man midfield in a 4-3-3 formation. That changed for their game against Togo with the coach Paa Kwasi Fabin sacrificing one midfielder for an extra body upfront in a 4-4-2. With Burkina Faso’s three man midfield and the ability of Alio to drop deep as an extra midfield body, one must wonder if it forces Ghana to revert to the three man midfield they deployed in their opening fixture. The Black Starlets in their win over Togo did show great potential expecially in the second half. Winning against Togo might just be the mood changer the lads needed before the semi final.
The threat of Burkina Faso is quite clear and inevitable. Ghanaian coach Fabin and his team must find a way to deal with the movement of Alio and be ready for aerial prowess of Ouedraogo when he gets his turn.