On the eve of the grand final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009, FIFA.com caught up for an exclusive chat with the coaches of both hopeful sides. Switzerland's ace tactician Dany Ryser and Nigerian boss John Obuh were both up for talking tactics, big crowds and motivation ahead of Sunday's showdown in Abuja.
FIFA.com: Can you talk a little about what the expectations were before the tournament, and how you’ve performed since arriving here at the finals?
Dany Ryser (SUI): Our expectations before the tournament have been exceeded beyond what we could have imagined. Drawn into such a tough group with Brazil, Japan and Mexico we all thought a place in the Round of 16 alone would be a great achievement. No one back home thought we could do it, but my players believed. Their passion saw them through.
John Obuh (NGA): I was appointed late as coach and the amount of time I had to prepare the team was not as long as I would have hoped. Plus, we had to change a lot of players because of the MRI age tests, but I believed in the team and I knew that if they put in the work and listened to me, we would be OK. People in Nigeria were in a panic, but I never panicked. They said we were in the group of death, but I saw it as the group of life.
Now, facing the final, do you do anything differently as a coach to motivate your team before such a big match?
Dany Ryser (SUI): I don’t need to motivate them anymore; they are as focussed as they can be. We’ll prepare for the final as we would any other match here at the tournament in Nigeria. Being in the final is already enough motivation for them. My team is ready!
John Obuh (NGA): Really, there is no different approach for us as such. We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing with every match: getting a little tighter, finishing better, keeping the ball better. The progression must remain the same.
What would you say is the main reason your team has reached the final?
Dany Ryser (SUI): The main reason, I would say, is the nature of the team itself. They achieved all of this here by playing as a strong collective unit that sticks together in every situation. This has been the secret of our success.
John Obuh (NGA): Determination, hard work, and a sense of purpose – these have all been crucial to this team. My players have played every game as if it was the last of their careers, with total intensity. God has been with us too, and you can’t underestimate that.
The crowd is bound to be huge, and largely pro-Nigeria. How do you feel about that?
Dany Ryser (SUI): We are well-aware that the crowd will of course support the home side, no matter what. But I told my players to enjoy it because this will be an experience that they are not going to face every day. This is going to be a very unique atmosphere and a great moment for any footballer, especially a young one.
John Obuh (NGA): These fans are a source of inspiration for my team. You saw it in the semi-final in Lagos, how passionate they were. Even after the game, they followed the bus with us all the way to the hotel just to give their support and love. They will give us great motivation.
What does it mean for you personally to be in the final here in Abuja?
Dany Ryser (SUI): For me personally there is a sense of great satisfaction! As a coach, I am happy that my ideas and my philosophy were right and helped the team to reach the final. Also, it shows that Swiss football is moving in the right direction.
John Obuh (NGA): I am just beginning as a coach and it is important to be humble. Just like with the team, it is important for a coach to get better with every new challenge, to confirm previous achievements. I refuse to let any of this go to my head, but I feel proud about what these boys have done so far.