From the prowess of Nigeria in 1989 to the triumph of Ghana in 2009, and the performances of Senegal and Mali in 2015, here are the greatest feats of African countries at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Over the last 22 editions, Africa has been present in the last four of this tournament on eight occasions
The U-20 World Cup 2023 is taking place from May 20 to June 11
Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria and Tunisia are the representatives of the African continent.
The FIFA™ U-20 World Cup is a competition where African teams usually shine. This tournament has indeed seen the emergence of great African talents on the international scene, such as Andre Ayew, Seydou Keita or Mahamadou Diarra who have all left an indelible mark in the history of this competition.
Here are some of the best performances of African countries in the competition.
1985: Nigeria in the last four, a first for Africa
The Flying Eagles made their mark in their first match against Canada. Fourteen seconds was all it took for Odiaka Monday to score the fastest goal in the history of the U-20 World Cup (called the World Youth Championship at the time), a record that would be beaten by Senegal’s Amadou Sagna 34 years later. In this edition, Siasia’s teammates won the bronze medal, thanks to a penalty shootout victory against the Soviet Union.
1989: The Miracle of Dammam, the Flying Eagles in the final
In Saudi Arabia, Nigeria had great ambitions. In Dammam, in the quarter-finals, while the Nigerians were led 4-0 by the Soviet Union, Ohen’s teammates reversed the trend: “I remember every minute of that game. I remember every minute of that game. We did a real feat of scoring four goals in 15 minutes,” said Tunde Disu in an interview with The Nation.
With the score tied at 4-4 at the end of regulation time, Nigeria and the Soviets went to penalties. The more industrious West Africans advanced to the semifinals, where they defeated the United States. In the final, Disu’s protégés met up with Portugal, where they fell 2-0.
1993: Ghana follows in Nigeria’s footsteps
Four years after Nigeria, Ghana was in the final of a World U-20. The Ghanaians had a course without fault until the final. Against Brazil, Duah scored in the 15th minute, the team was about to create a feat. However, Ahinful’s team-mates cracked in the space of eight minutes (goals from Yan in the 50th and Gian in the 58th) and let the victory slip away.
1999: Mahamadou Diarra and Seydou Keita put Mali on the podium
A Malian duo was to shine at this edition of the World Youth Championship: Mahamadou Diarra and Seydou Keita. Thanks to their two midfielders, the Malians made an exceptional journey: they finish at the top of their group, eliminate Cameroon (5-4 victory after extra time) in the round of 16 and Nigeria in the quarter (3-1 victory), before losing to Xavi’s Spain, 3-1 in the semi-final. The Africans were consoled with the bronze medal thanks to their victory 1-0 against Uruguay. At the same time Keita won the adidas Golden Ball.
2001: Two African nations on the podium
The Black Satellites, led by Michael Essien, caused havoc. They finished first in their group ahead of France. The Ghanaians managed to eliminate Brazil 2-1 before facing the Egyptians in the last four of the competition. The North Africans also had a good run, as Mohamed El Yamini’s teammates beat the Netherlands.
In this duel between Africans, it is Ghana who comes out as the winner. For the second final in its history, the West African nation fell to Argentina and left with a new silver medal. Egypt beat Paraguay in the third place match and took the bronze.
2005: Nigeria in the final again, Morocco finishes fourth
Sixteen years later, the Flying Eagles were again in the final. The dream of the Nigerians to be crowned was destroyed very quickly by Argentina and their playmaker: Lionel Messi. La Pulga scored two goals from the penalty spot and the Albiceleste, victorious 2-1, won their fifth world title. The Nigerians John Obi Mikel and Taye Taiwo were awarded the adidas Silver and Bronze Ball. Morocco, semi-finalists, were beaten 2-1 by Brazil in the match for third place.
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2009: Ghana finally crowned
The third time was the right time for Ghana. The Ghanaians took the lead of their group and especially were very prolific during the cut-off matches (9 goals scored for 4 conceded). Confident, the band of André Ayew arrived in the final against Brazil. After regulation time and extra time (0-0), the two teams had a penalty session. With 4 successful shots against 3, Ghana exulted in front of the Brazilians. Striker Adiyiah was crowned double adidas Golden Ball and adidas Golden Shoe winner thanks to his eight goals scored.
2015 : Mali as in 1999
Mali and Senegal were both drawn as the best third-placed teams in their pools. The Eaglets and Cubs of Teranga, who were beaten by Brazil (5-0) and Serbia (2-1 a.p.) respectively in the semifinals, battled it out for the bronze medal. Winning 3-1, Mali repeated their 1999 feat and completed the podium of this edition. Adama Traoré was the adidas Golden Ball