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We have been welcomed with open arms wherever we have played-Spain coach Santiago Denia

Written by: Sabin Castelino

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The Africans take on the Europeans in an unpredictable contest in Mumbai.

The second semi-final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup will be held at the Dr. DY Patil Sports Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday. The coaches of both Spain and Mali spoke to the media in the pre-match presser in the build-up to the game. Both teams are vying for the title after having missed it the last time around and will be looking to play tough and see that they reach the final and probably win it this time.

When the Spanish coach Santiago Denia was asked about the facilities provided to the team throughout the tournament he said, “First thing that I want to do is to thank the country, the association (AIFF) and FIFA for welcoming us so warmly. The full experience in India has been amazing.”

Spain has never won this tournament but the coach refused to lay emphasis on it saying, “Like I have said before, there is no pressure for us, there is no pressure for the coaching staff, no pressure for the players and no pressure for the federation. Of course we wanna(sic) win for the first time. There is no pressure but it’s all about the challenge.”

On their strategy in the semi-final against African powerhouse Mali, the coach elaborated, “In this part of the tournament most teams play in a similar condition and as we have played many teams with different styles we have been making small adjustments. We know we are playing a physical team and we cannot play transition games but we will play our game and try to win the match.”

He also commented on the Malian team saying, “I don’t believe Mali will play a transition game and they are a good team who play good football. They are a good team and that is why they are in the semi-finals.”

Victor Chust, the Spanish starlet was asked about how the weather will play a part in the game, as they looked exhausted by the end of the last game. He answered, “It is true, the weather is very different from Spain. After the second match we are used to the weather and we realized that in the following matches we were not as tired.”

The coach refused to complain about the extra rest day that Mali got as well as the weather and said, “The weather is something we cannot control. From the moment of the draw we knew that if we progressed we would be in this situation. What we can control is to prepare for this match and we have been doing it. We have to get better not only in defense but also offence.”

On the impact of the loss to Brazil in the first match, the coach said, “By losing with Brazil we realized that we had to quickly get better. We have been making small adjustments both in attack and defence and have been improving.”

Chust was asked whether he could break into the first team at European champions Real Madrid soon, “It is true that I am seeing in Europe, big clubs are playing youth players more often, but me, I am still too young.” To this the coach added, “Step by Step!”

The Spanish coach closed his conference by commenting on the reception given to them by Indian fans saying, “We have been received with open arms wherever we have played and we expect the same from Mumbai.”


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Hopefully the supporters bring that good luck charm for us- Mali coach Jonas Komla

The press conference for Mali was attended by the head coach Jonas Komla and Salaam Giddou. Mali will be without their suspended captain and concerns were raised on the absence of their most influential player. The coach dismissed these saying, “We are a team of 21 and we have players to replace him. Everyone plays at a similar level.”

Mali play their third game in Navi Mumbai and were crowd favourites even in defeat to Paraguay. The coach was asked of his expectations from the audience and said, “I was very happy with the support the last time we played and hopefully the supporters bring that good luck charm for us.”

Komla seemed to be in a very jovial mood and when asked about his opponents he concluded with two words, “Bonne équipe” (Good Team) but on his team’s chances he elaborated saying, “We have played here before and so we will have some advantage here as we know the pitch better. But, the weather is the same in Mali and we are used to this.”

He was asked whether the loss to Paraguay affected their mindset or changed their philosophy, to which he replied, “Our philosophy has not changed. We play each match to win and we continue doing so. After the loss to Paraguay I told the players that it is ok as it is not the end of the tournament. But we have two games which we have to play as though they were the finals.”

On being asked about his future prospects Giddou said, “This is a big tournament and puts us in the limelight and helps big European clubs see our talent."

 

Published: Tue Oct 24, 2017 11:51 PM IST

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