The description could apply to any FIFA Under 20 team playing in the 2013 edition in Turkey. Such is the standard of play. The team being described might be Africa's best hope for a World Cup or any other internationally recognized accolade. It would be even more exciting if such a feat was achieved with an African coach at the helm.
Enter Sellas Tetteh, fresh from leading his Black Satellites into this tournament's semi final stage where they fell to tournament favorites France.
Africa's Finest It would be unfair not to acknowledge the contribution of homegrown coaches around the continent, with names like Hassan Shehata, three-time winner of the Africa Cup of Nations (2006, 2008, 2010) and the Africa Youth Cup of Nations (2003). Shehata was also the CAF Coach of the Year 2008. Others in contention include Tunisian Nabil Maloul and Niger's national team coach Haroun Douale Gabde. There is clear quality present among the indigenous coaching fraternity.
In Profile Sellas Tetteh began his coaching career in 1995 with Kotobabi Powerlines, before joining Liberty Professionals a year later.
This was followed by an Assistant Manager position with the Ghana Under 17 team in 2001, before taking full control a year later. A promotion to the Ghana Under 23 team followed in 2003. Tetteh would later became an Assistant for the full national team. In June 2008 he was appointed caretaker manager of the Ghanaian national team, the Black Stars, a position he held until August 2008.
His star on the rise saw Tetteh appointed manager of the Rwandan national side in February 2010, marking an end to his dual position as manager of the Ghana Under 20 national team and Ghanaian club side Liberty Professionals.
History would be made as Tetteh's Under 20 Black Satellites won the 2009 FIFA Under 20 World Cup, becoming the first African team to win the competition.
This year's FIFA Under 20 World Cup campaign is Sellas Tetteh's second stint in charge of his country.
The 2013 Campaign The Satellites were drawn in Group A, comprising pre-tournament favorites France and Spain. After suffering losses against the two, 1-3 to Les Bluets and 0-1 to Spain, the Ghanaians would make it to the quarter finals after defeating the USA 4-1. This put the Satellites through the knockout phase as one of the best four third-placed teams.
The team would come alive in the Second Round, stunning Portual 3-2 after coming from two goals to one down. In the quarter finals Ghana would make another comeback, this time from 2-3 to edge 4-3 past Chile in extra time.
The team's campaign would however fizzle out in the last four, after France inflicted a second loss, this time a hard fought 2-1 result.
The Ghanaians now await Iraq for the third and fourth place playoff.
It is good to note that this team managed to get to the last four of a 24-team tournament, comprising the best youth teams from every continent, effectively champions of their regions. No mean feat.
Team Composition Egypt's legendary coach Hassan Shehata's three Africa Cup of Nation winning teams in 2006, 2008 and 2010 featured 20, 17 and 19 locally based players respectively. It becomes easy to compare him Tetteh's 16 out of 21 players in the 2013 FIFA Under 20 World Cup squad. Another African coach who favors such an approach is former Nigerian defender Stephen Keshi, who selected eight such players during Nigeria's recent participation in the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 in Brazil.
Keshi is also one of only two people, along with Egypt's Mahmoud El-Gohary, to have won the Africa Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach.
Hassan Shehata (Egypt, top) and Stephen Keshi (Nigeria)
The three coaches have learned to tap into what their local leagues offer, standing in good stead for the nations' footballing futures.
Tactical acumen married with local knowledge of the footballing scene is set to make these men invaluable assets. This should go a long way towards reversing the mindset that the continent needs foreign tacticians for teams to excel. It can be done.
Shehata played his football for Cairo giants Zamalek and Kuwaiti club SC Kazma. Keshi's footballing journey saw him turn out for local clubs at home, in Cote d'Ivoire, Belgium and the US. Tetteh played his football at home, Nigeria and Bangladesh.
Each of the trio is thus well traveled and exposed to the world. They have been able to give back their knowledge and experience to their national teams. This is an approach that should be lauded.
Not only does it save the country money but also provides inspiration to the up and coming, and a measure of continuity for local football. It is a major plus to their respective countries for not letting ex playing personnel waste away after retirement.
The countries in consideration have also invested considerably in the sport and sporting infrastructure, the benefits of which are clear in winning performances regionally and internationally. That is the way to go for African nations. Conclusion The best solutions to any challenges must come from the people. That makes a strong case for local coaches familiar with the local culture. International achievements are now making people sit up and notice. It makes sense to utilize acquired experience and ideas from an increasingly global game. Many who watched the aforementioned youth World Cup would agree that the gulf in class is shrinking by the day.
The technical ability required to play internationally is now widespread, with a lot of African youth excelling abroad, in cultures vastly different from their own. It might be time to revise our mentality about indigenous talent playing its part in such progress.
Images used with permission.