Expectant coaches have their say
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Just hours before the final acts of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012, the coaches of the competition’s top-four sides gave their verdicts on their teams’ performances and the state of the women’s game in their respective countries.

FIFA.com canvassed the opinions of the coaches involved in 13 October’s match for third place at Azerbaijan 2012, Ghana head coach Mas-Ud Dramani and his German opposite number Anouschka Bernhard, as well as the supremos of the two teams in the same day’s final: France’s Guy Ferrier and Yong Bang-Hwang of Korea DPR.

Beginning with the German camp, though disappointment still lingers after their failure to reach a first FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup final, victory on Saturday against Ghana to secure the last place on the podium would equal their previous best-ever finish at this competition.

“We’re happy with the end result, with being in the top four, but a little upset at how we’ve played in some games, because I think we’re capable of better,” said Bernhard. “However, it’s been a great experience for our players and great in terms of our footballing development, so we have to view this tournament as a success.”

Ghana too have undoubtedly taken a step forward at Azerbaijan 2012, particularly given the Black Maidens already made history by reaching the quarter-final stage, never mind the last four. As the first African side to reach this point of the competition, they have done their continent proud, whatever happens against Germany.

In the view of coach Dramani, the fact Ghana have made such progress, despite the problems they had to endure during their preparatory period, has firmly underlined the future potential of the African women’s game. “We don’t have a qualifying championship that compares to the European one, but we do have plenty of passion,” he said.

“And when you see that both ourselves and Nigeria qualified for the quarter-finals, that means our football has come on a lot. One day we [an African team] will be world champions.”

Finalists France have also made history by becoming the first French women’s side to contest the title decider at a FIFA competition. For coach Ferrier, this campaign in Azerbaijan is the result of a lengthy period of hard work from everyone involved: “At this moment in time we have up to six academies dedicated to women’s football, where sport and education are combined.

"The girls study and pick up their qualifications, but they also train five days a week," he went on. "They have to work hard at what they do, but that effort has been reflected here, by them reaching the final”.

Facing Les Bleuettes in the final are Korea DPR, who return to the competition showpiece having won the New Zealand 2008 edition of this tournament. The North Koreans' current boss Yong is confident this crop of young players can repeat that feat, yet he was also keen not to show a lack of respect to France – with whom they drew 1-1 at the group stage – and Germany, who they edged out in the semi-finals. “Both France and Germany are very strong teams and were great opponents,” he underlined.

Ferrier, for his part, highlighted his side’s readiness to cope with Saturday’s big occasion: “The pressure’s been off for our players since we made it past the quarter-finals. We know what our weaknesses are and where Korea DPR are strong, and it’s simply a question of playing as well as we possibly can.”

All in all, therefore, reaching the final day of a FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup has been considered a success for everyone involved. Now all that is left is to enjoy the final two encounters, and savour the spectacle these four quality teams and their coaches will serve up on 13 October.