Uruguay's FIFA U-17 World Championship campaign probably did not turn out the way they had hoped. A first-round exit ensured an unhappy trip home for the South Americans as they were left to rue what went wrong. Nevertheless, the young Celestes will never forget working alongside senior national team coach Jorge Fossati, surely one of the highlights of their tournament.
Fossati, looking to help book his side's place in the upcoming 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, took time to speak to FIFA.com about the reasons behind his visit, his views on the tournament and what this generation of players can bring to Uruguayan football.
FIFA.com: Mr Fossati, what was it made you decide to accompany the team?
Jorge Fossati: I try to do the same thing when I work with a club side. That's to say, not only working towards short-term goals, but laying a foundation for the future. I believe that it is my duty to work closely with the young players, without supervising them or interfering directly in the coaches' decisions. I think that it's important for the youngsters to have the coach of the senior side around, and that's why I also attended the South American Under-20 tournament early this year. It is our responsibility to follow their progress and gradually begin to integrate these youngsters into the main squad. That is the work ethic that we must follow.
How did the youngsters react to your presence in Lima?
You'd have to ask them! What I will say is that it wasn't the first time that I'd met them. Over in Uruguay we work with the younger players a lot, I get them involved with the senior squad, even if they are just sitting on the sidelines watching. I know each and every one of them, and they know me. They even get as far as performing ball boy duties in qualifying games. Although I hesitate to answer for them, I suppose that having the senior national team coach around ought to motivate them even more.
What can we expect from this generation of players?
I am confident that this generation of players has a lot to offer Uruguay in the future. Of course, we need to know how to guide them and keep helping them to improve, without putting too much pressure on them. To be a successful player you not only need to have good feet, but a good head on your shoulders and I think that these lads are well-grounded in that respect. I have seen young players with a wealth of talent from the neck down, who have shone at junior level and then failed to make the step up.
How do you think the experience gained in this tournament has helped the players?
It has been invaluable. Nothing beats international competition to improve a player. I am of the belief that you can get more out of one international match than fifty training sessions. It helps you to see where you need to improve, and how good and competitive you are. It was vital that the lads got to this World Championship, and I would have been even happier had they won, if only because the more games they play the better the chance of picking up valuable experience.
What did you think of the other games you saw?
Africa continues to improve and produce excellent players. This is something that needs careful consideration: 20 years ago this didn't happen, but these days all the African lads are natural athletes, as well as having a physical genetic advantage. They have the potential to achieve something really big in world football. As far as European teams are concerned, I see that they are following their traditional recipe of organisation, tactical discipline and great physical strength, although they still lack that unique South American flair.
Finally, have you come to Peru to observe any player in particular?
In every generation, there are players that you know beforehand are more talented than the rest. Nevertheless, this may be the worst time to put pressure on them. It's not the same seeing them amongst youngsters of their own age, as moving them up to play with the older players. Sometimes, an early developer will collide with someone his own age and send them flying, which doesn't happen with the older players. You've got to be careful and know when to choose the right moment.