There can be few better feelings for a coach when their plans come to near-perfect fruition. Ghana boss Evans Adotey knows that feeling well, having seen his charges produce three commanding displays to sail through the group phase at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018.
The master tactician is on familiar ground, a veteran of three previous U-17 women’s world finals campaigns. An assistant coach at Azerbaijan 2012, he took full command at Costa Rica 2014 and Jordan 2016. The performances his latest batch of troops have produced in South America, however, have brought him a new level of satisfaction.
“This is my fourth World Cup experience and it’s been by far the best one for me because we’re pursuing our game plan with ease and recording emphatic wins,” said a clearly-pleased Adotey, speaking three days before his players face Mexico in the quarter-finals in Montevideo on Sunday. There is no reason to doubt his words. The Ghanaians have been in imperious form, winning the physical, tactical, technical and mental battles every time they have stepped out on to the pitch.
What Adotey has learned from his four World Cups
The best player? “I’ve never seen anyone like Mukarama Abdulai. She has the potential to become one of the greatest players in the world.”
The most valuable lesson? “I forced one of my players to take a vital penalty against Italy at Costa Rica 2014. She didn’t want to do it and she ended up missing. I won’t be making that mistake again. What I do now is prepare them technically and mentally to take penalties in each training session.”
Adotey leaves nothing to chance and has a strong work ethic, an approach that is bearing fruit. “Using the resources available, I worked very hard to find players. I travelled backwards and forwards across Ghana for several months and drew up an initial list of 67 players, which I then brought down to 21 for the World Cup,” he explained.
“I knew exactly what I wanted for my system and I took great care in identifying only the very best attributes, paying special attention to non-technical aspects. The mental side of things and attitude were fundamental criteria when it came to picking my squad.”
That detailed approach is reflected in the Black Maidens’ team spirit. When the Africans take to the field, their discipline and fighting qualities are there for all to see, not least when they camp out on the opposition box, upping the intensity to pen their rivals in.
“Their physical fitness is the result of a lot of hard work,” said Adotey. “During our long preparations I made them do the Cooper test every week,” he added. “It involves running the longest possible distance in 12 minutes. If their performances didn’t improve from one week to the next, then I didn’t let them get away with anything.”
Adotey also had no hesitation in pitting his players against slightly younger men’s teams to prepare them for their World Cup test. “It made them push themselves. I want to see them excel themselves when things get tough,” he said with a look of sheer determination on his face, a look that reflects his inner convictions.
Ghana’s general has made his intentions clear, and his troops know exactly what they have to do against the Mexicans to ensure his carefully-laid battle plans reap yet more reward.
Did you know?
• The Ghana players like to watch English Premier League matches together and then analyse the tactics with the coaching staff.
• Faith and prayer play an integral part in the Black Maidens’ preparations. They pray together every morning and evening and before every match and training session.