With five wins, a draw, 24 goals scored and only two conceded, Ghana boasted the best record of the African qualifiers for the FIFA U-20 Womenâ€™s World Cup France 2018.
Playing a prominent part in those stats was the strike duo formed by Princella Adubea and Sandra Owusu-Ansah, with Adubea helping herself to ten goals to end the competition as joint-leading scorer. So impressive was their qualification campaign, that the Black Princesses were some peopleâ€™s outside bet to win France 2018.
Yet before they arrived they lost Adubea to injury, an absence felt by the whole team â€œItâ€™s really hurt us,â€ said Owusu-Ansah, in conversation with FIFA.com. â€œWe really link up well together and we can find each other with our eyes closed. Itâ€™s a lot tougher without her around and her absence has affected me, and the rest of the team for that matter.â€
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Having lost both their games to date at France 2018, shipping eight goals in the process, Ghana have been shadows of their former selves, and their chances of glory are already over.
Though the Ghanaians have had little cause for satisfaction, Owusu-Ansahâ€™s well-taken goal in the opening match against France and her attitude on and off the pitch provide some grounds for optimism.
â€œItâ€™s hard for me to explain whatâ€™s happened. We had the weapons and the determination to do much better, but thereâ€™s no way Iâ€™m going to let us give up,â€ said the forward with head held high. â€œWeâ€™ve still got one game to play and the chance to salvage our pride and show people what weâ€™re capable of.â€
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Ghanaâ€™s brightest performer in the meeting with Les Bleuettes, Owusu-Ansah was handed the captainâ€™s armband for their next outing, against the Netherlands. Though she failed to score on that occasion, she did all she could to help her side take something from a match the Oranje quickly took control of.
â€œIâ€™ve had a heart-to-heart with my team-mates,â€ she explained. â€œIâ€™ve tried to find the words to keep them motivated. I told them that we absolutely need to put these two defeats behind us and go back into battle straight away.â€
The Black Princesses will have the chance to restore their honour on Sunday against New Zealand, and Owusu-Ansah for one will not be holding anything back: â€œThese two defeats have been a blow to our pride, and we just have to leave France with a positive result.â€