Hosts Peru opened the FIFA U-17 World Championship with a respectable draw against the two-time U-17 world champs Ghana. After the game FIFA.com met up with Peru's Argentine coach José Pavoni for a question and answer session at the team's hotel. The 51-year-old elaborated on his World Championship expectations, the improvement of his team and developments in Peruvian football.
Mr Pavoni, if we had said you would draw against Ghana before the game, you would surely have been quite satisfied. Is that still the case given the way the game went with an early dismissal for your opponents?
I have the impression that the Peruvian people and our set-up in particular are satisfied with the result. You have to be realistic and admit that we are only here because we qualified automatically as hosts of the tournament. We would not have qualified by right. We were the eighth best of ten teams in the South American qualifying zone. Ghana, on the other hand, have extensive experience in a number of World Championships. Even with one less player on the pitch they battled for a draw. So even if we had enough chances to win the game and one more man on the pitch, we still have to look at the result positively.
What particularly impressed you about your team in the opening game?
Above all, I was impressed by the attitude of my players. They showed presence and character on the pitch considering that they often have difficulties at international level. They were determined to play their own game and refused to be intimidated by Ghana's physical superiority.
The stadium was almost sold out for the game against Ghana. Was the atmosphere in the stands an advantage for your team or can it put the young players under pressure?
It was certainly an advantage. My players had never played in front of 25,000 fans before. They are more used to playing in front of 500. That was one of the main concerns in our set-up before the tournament, that the crowds could pose problems. But as I have said, my players showed their character. We had no way of testing how they would react in that environment beforehand.
How would you describe the development of your team in recent months?
We have seen a huge improvement. Peruvian players often lack in confidence, but we have played some big games and they have gradually built up their confidence. In yesterday's game, they showed a self-assurance that they simply did not have four months ago when we played in the South American qualifiers.
Can you identify any individual players in your team who could carve out a career in Europe for example?
It would be too early to say that. You have to see how they develop. At youth level, it is difficult to make a comparison with other countries such as China, Costa Rica or Spain because, unlike with adult players, you do not have enough information at your disposal. You simply have to treat the players with respect and allow them to develop and then you can see.
After seeing your team and your group opponents play, what are your objectives at the World Championship?
Initially, our main objective was to reach the second round, but naturally we want to go as far as we can and yesterday's game gave us hope that we can perhaps go a little further. We held one of the best teams at the tournament to a draw.
What was your impression of the teams from China and Costa Rica?
China have very quick players and are very strong in possession. Costa Rica are very good on a tactical level. They can maintain their fitness level for 90 minutes rather than having peaks and troughs. That is very important in this age range and not all teams have that consistency. The Costa Ricans could turn a match in the 93rd minute.
Peru are taking part in their first FIFA U-17 World Championship. What do you think of that?
It is not only the first time we have taken part in a U-17 World Championship. We had never played at a U-20 World Championship either. The biggest problem is that there are other nations ahead of Peru in South America who are very strong at youth level - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Columbia, Ecuador. Peru have difficulties because they have failed to develop this area in the past. In Oceania, Australia have a big advantage and therefore more opportunities. In CONCACAF it is the same.
You mentioned difficulties at youth level. Where does Peruvian football rank in comparison with other South American nations?
Peru have to start developing a long-term strategy and improving their infrastructure, starting at the lowest age level. In Argentina, for example, there are better structures in place for the 7 to 13 age group, which lays excellent foundations. There are football complexes with pitches of different sizes for playing 5, 6 or 7-a-side. The youngest players play more games and tournaments which helps to improve their motivation. At 12 or 13, they are already used to training once or twice a week. By 14 or 15, they already have 10,000 headers, 10,000 shots and 1,000 kilometres behind them and are in a good starting position. I always compare football with school. With both, you need a good foundation to develop further. The better the foundations, the further you will go. Peru have major difficulties at youth level and have a long way to go. There are financial deficits but I do not know where further funding is going to come from even if the Football Association are currently trying to break new ground with the 8 to 12 age group so that football is a more central part of their lives and the children spend less time sitting at the computer or listening to music and more time playing with a ball.
Returning to the tournament: What will be the key to success in the game against China?
That is quite simple. We have to score a goal and not concede any (laughs). We have not looked at their team yet and are just about to do that now. We will analyse our opponents' strengths and weaknesses and devise the right tactics to nullify their strengths. And then if we do our best, we will have a good chance of winning the game.