FIFA U-17 WC Final: Coaches cautious in approach

While Spanish coach Santiago Denia said his team would look to play to its strengths, Steve Cooper, his English counterpart, said, his players will try to stay humble and play according to the plan and system.

Spain coach Santiago Denia (left) and his English counterpart Steve Cooper.

Buoyed by the idea to become the first Spanish team to win the under-17 World Cup, coach Santiago Denia refuses to give much importance to his team’s European cup final victory over Saturday’s opponent, England, in May earlier this year.

“England has improved every aspect of its game. Defensively it is doing better and it has the best attacking record in this competition,” Denia said. “Our players need to understand that to win the Cup they have to win tomorrow’s game. Past results don’t matter.”

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Acknowledging the team’s defensive frailties and the added pressure that comes with playing in a championship final, the coach said: “We need to improve on our semifinals performance. We need to defend better and the best way to do that will be to retain more of the ball. More than the pressure, there is a lot of motivation among the squad to win a trophy which no Spanish teams of earlier years have captured.”

Highlighting the similar ball-playing style of its opponent, Denia said the Spanish team would look to play to its strengths. “The England coach has picked players who can play with the ball. They are really good when they are transitioning from defence to attack,” he said. “We want to have more of the ball and then take advantage of that possession to create and convert chances.”

His English counterpart, Steve Cooper, well aware of the English age-group teams' recent international success, tried to deflect the pressure away from his team, and concentrate more on the process. “England now has technically gifted players and we are trying to imbibe a certain style of play across all national teams. The FA has a plan and though it’s young we have started seeing some results. The success of all the teams and even this squad, which has reached the final, rests with all the coaching staff and also the group of players,” he said. “The plan is long term and these boys can continue their development and move to senior setups and ultimately aim at winning the senior World Cup.”

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Talking about Spain, whose football philosophy Cooper relates to, due to his long association with Liverpool during the reign of Rafa Benitez, the coach added: “Spain is a good organised side and we know their areas of strengths.  But we are also aware of their weakness that we can exploit. They too know about us, so we will try to stay humble and play according to our plan and system.”

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