Franz Beckenbauer was among the interested and impressed onlookers at Christchurch's QEII Stadium on Thursday as England, Korea DPR, Germany and USA contested the semi-finals of the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. Less than 24 hours later, the German legend and FIFA Executive Committee member spoke to members of New Zealand's media at a round table event in Auckland to offer his perspective on FIFA's newest tournament and its Kiwi hosts.
On his impressions of the semi-finals and the atmosphere
The atmosphere was great. And the second semi-final, although not a great game for the German team, was really excellent. Germany actually started very well but surprisingly they stopped playing and in the end the USA really deserved their win. The Germans made some mistakes but they are young - 16 and 17 years old - and they have a lot to learn. In general, I was very impressed with everything that I seen yesterday. The football, the people, the organisation - everything was perfect. From what I have seen so far, New Zealand has been an excellent host.
On New Zealand as a host nation
This has been a good opportunity because these games are being shown everywhere, so New Zealand has become a focus for the world. There could not have been better promotion for New Zealand than this World Cup. It's the first time FIFA has staged a World Cup in this category and it has been a very, very big success. You can see the quality of the games. Really, I was surprised by the standard. And when it gets reported round the world that New Zealand has been an excellent host, it really is the best promotion you can have.
On the possibility of future tournaments, such as the FIFA Women's World Cup, coming to New Zealand
Yes, why not? That means the country is in a very, very good shape in terms of organising competitions and, in my comment to FIFA, I will of course recommend the country for future events.
On what New Zealand can do to progress on the field
A good step would be to have a professional league. Japan is an example of this. They were in the same position 20 years ago, when the standard of their football was not at the level it is today. But they founded a professional league, brought in a lot of foreigners and the standard became higher and higher. The problem here is that although New Zealand is a big country, the population is small. But the issue is always quality rather than quantity, and it's important to be patient.
On a prediction for the New Zealand 2008 final
It's difficult to compare Korea DPR and USA, but I think the United States might be a little bit ahead. They played really excellently in the match against Germany and their physical condition was also very, very good, whereas with the Koreans, you could see towards the end of their match that they became very tired. It's a game, it's a final, and anything can happen, but my view having watched yesterday's two games is that USA has a slight edge.