"I said it after our last game, and I've been saying it for two years now, this team is filled with so much heart and guts and determination that it is impossible for me to be any more proud of their effort in this tournament," said an emotional John Ellinger at the conclusion of the game. "We did everything we could to get a goal tonight but it just wasn't to be."
For the fifth time in six games in the tournament, the U.S. surrendered the first goal of the match, with Pinpong Razak hitting a thunderous header from six yards out that caromed off the underside of the cross bar to score in the 35th minute. The goal was set up by a perfect flick on header from Barnard Dong-Bortey off a corner kick from Ishmael Addo, who did well to force the corner off of the leg of U.S. defender Nelson Akwari just prior to the goal.
Ghana had a chance to double lead its in the 75th minute, but a penalty kick by Ishmael Addo, the tournament's top scorer, was stopped by U.S. goalkeeper D.J. Countess with a strong, diving save to his right. Addo had set up the penalty with a powerful dribble into the right edge of the penalty area, where Alexander Yi was forced to bring him down from behind.
Just 10 minutes later, in the 84th minute, Addo finally beat Countess with a brilliant strike from 10 yards from the left side of the penalty area, hitting a rocket high into the net for his tournament-high seventh goal.
For Ghana, the third place finish was small consolation for a team which missed out on the Under-17 championship game for the first time this decade after twice winning the tournament and twice finishing as runners-up in the 1990s.
The U.S. was shutout in a game for the first time in 30 matches, dating all the way back to March of this year.
"This team has planted the seeds for Project 2010," said Ellinger. "I believe that U.S. Soccer is well on its way to achieving the goals of better developing players to begin competing for a World Cup title in the next 10 years."
After the medal ceremony, in which the U.S received their fourth place award and Ghana took their third place medals, the Ghana team, in a show of unrivaled class, invited the Americans to join them on their victory lap, circling the field hand-in-hand with the USA to the cheers of the Auckland crowd of over 15,000.
The U.S. ended up in the consolation match after a thrilling semifinal clash with Australia on Wednesday, that saw the young Socceroo's advance to the finals after a 2-2 draw and then eight rounds of penalty kicks (which finally ended 7-6 in Australia's favor). Wearing the armband in today's match was captain Kenneth Cutler, who received a classy show of support from his teammates after it was Cutler's missed penalty which ended the USA's hopes of a world championship. The day after the team's elimination, Cutler's teammates voted to make the midfielder from Richmond, Virginia, the team's captain in their final match. (Cutler and defender Nelson Akwari usually rotate as captain, and Akwari had been scheduled to wear the armband in the final game.)
The loss to Ghana officially ended the USA's unbeaten streak at 25 games, a streak which began way back in August of 1998. (Despite the USA's elimination in the semifinals to Australia, that match is officially recorded as a draw by FIFA, with advancement decided on penalty kicks).
The USA will return home after three weeks in New Zealand late Sunday evening.
1999 U.S. YOUTH NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Men's Under-17 National Team vs. Ghana U-17 National Team|
|Competition:||V FIFA U-17 World Championship|
|Venue:||North Harbour Stadium (Auckland, New Zealand)|
|Date:||Nov. 27, 1999|
GHA - Poinpong Razak, (Bernard Dong-Bortey), 35.
GHA - Ishmael Addo, 84.
USA - 1-Delvin Countess, 4-Nelson Akwari (captain), 5-Alexander Yi, 9-Adolfo Gregorio, 14-Oguchi Onyewu, 15-Kyle Beckerman (13-Abe Thompson, 63), 3-DaMarcus Beasley, 7-Kenneth Cutler (captain), 8-Bryan Jackson, 10-Landon Donovan, 16-Jordan Cila (11-Bobby Convey, 77).
GHA - 1-Banahene Owusu (captain), 2-Emmanuel Nkrumah, 5-Michael Donkor, 7-Ibrahim Attiku, 9-Pinpong Razak (6-Kwame Frimpong Pele, 62), 10-Nathaniel Lamptey, 12-Razak Ibrahim, 13-Anthony Obodai, 14-Stephen Tetteh, 15-Ishmael Addo, 18-Bernard Dong-Bortey.
|Oguchi Onyewu (caution)||44.|