The Gambia won its opening match at a FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time in history when a 2-1 victory saw Abdoulie Bojang’s Young Scorpions made a winning return to a competition they last played 16 years ago.
A lightning high-tempo start saw the Gambians took the lead after just 20 seconds when Adama ‘Hurricane’ Bojang riffled home a powerful shot from outside the box with his weaker left-foot to give his side the best possible start. This was the fastest goal scored in the 2023 World Cup in Argentina and it was the fourth quickest in the competition’s history. The fastest goal was scored after just nine seconds when Senegal’s Amadou Sagna scored to give our neighbours the lead over Poland in the 2019 edition.
Though Honduras fired back after just four minutes, it was the Gambians that dominated this encounter in Mendoza and only their prolificacy in front of goal saved the CONCACAF side from receiving a heavy battering. Amongst a flurry of chances created by the Gambians, Geremy Rodas cleared a goal-bound shot from Bojang off the line with the keeper well beaten. However, Adama wouldn’t be denied his brace after he drove home his own rebound, again with his left foot after his initial header from a Mamin Sanyang corner was saved by the keeper.
Bojang is already tied at the top of the scoring chats after the first round of matches with two goals, the same number scored by Italy’s Cesare Casadei and Marcos Leonardo Santos Almeida of Brazil. Speaking in a post-match interview, the Steve Biko protégé already spoke of his desire to better his four goals at the AFCON earlier in the year by winning the golden boot at the global stage.
“It’s a great feeling representing your country in the World Cup and scoring a brace and much more having the three points. Hard work enhances talent and makes you improve,” Bojang said afterwards. “My target is to better my goal tally at the AFCON and win the golden boot here. I’m working hard towards it with the help of my teammates as collectively we can make things happen.”
In theory, this was supposed to be the Young Scorpions’ third appearance in the World Cup but the last edition was cancelled due to the effects of the Covid19 pandemic, even though we’d qualified. So, in practice, it is our second time we are playing in the competition. In Canada in 2007, in our debut campaign, a Gambian team coached by the late Peter Bonu-Johnson lost its opener 3-0 to a Mexican side inspired by Giovanni dos Santos before wins over New Zealand and Portugal saw us through to the last 16 where we lost to Austria 2-1 after extra time.
The Gambians now return to action on Thursday when they face France in their second Group F game with victory over the Europeans securing our passage to the last 16 with a game to spare. Even a draw might be enough considering that four of the six third place finishers will also qualify for the knockout stages. That match kicks off in Mendoza at 6pm Gambian time.
“We dominated the game, created the more chances despite knowing little about the opponents. As I told my boys, win the first game then you can go into the second with more confidence,” gaffer Lai Bojang said in his post-match reactions.