The group stage at the FIFA World Youth Championship UAE 2003 has come to an end, and with it the hopes and aspirations of the eight sides that have been eliminated from the competition. FIFA.com brings you reaction and analysis from the teams that failed to make it to the Round of Sixteen.
German boss Ulli Stieleke was playing down his squad’s chances even before the finals got underway. And when they were easily handled and held scoreless by Korea in their first match (0-2), he seemed to have a point. But three goals in 16 minutes against the States in their next outing looked to have them back on track (3-1). But sadly for the European footballing power, they failed to find a goal in their final test against Paraguay (0-2) and headed for home with heads hanging low.
Coach - Ullie Stieleke:
“We played poorly, sometimes we looked to be sleepwalking. It’s not enough to come to a competition like this with only fair preparations. You must be a complete team - in defence, in attack, in the middle. You must play as one complete team, attacking and defending as one. You must be fully prepared before you get involved in something like this, and the bottom line is that we were not. We were weak in too many areas, and we gave away goals like gifts. We could have been awarded with “assists” we gave goals away so cheaply.”
Central American outfit PANAMA - playing in their first-ever FIFA finals – always had a long road to hoe coming into the competition. But led by affable English boss Gary Stempel and drawn into a reasonable Group A, they looked to be in with a shout. But after losing three straight matches: 0-1 to Burkina Faso, 1-2 to UAE and 0-1 to Slovakia, they were on a plane before they knew it with zero points from three matches. But never disgraced, and far from the joke of the tournament, you can count on seeing PANAMA again…
Coach - Gary Stempel:
“I feel a real mixture of disappointment and pride. We only lost by a one-goal difference in all three of our matches and we were no joke. We showed that the difference between Panama and some of the bigger nations isn’t so great. We always played hard and with tremendous spirit, but it has not been easy for us. Still, our experience here is an important milestone for Panamanian football. Hopefully a bunch of these boys can go on to play for the senior team. We need to get a little better in certain areas; there is still some work to be done. Panama will be better prepared next time around.”
With 1-1 draws against Australia and Brazil, the CZECH REPUBLIC looked tohave done the hard work going into the final match against bottom team Canada. But after missing a penalty and having a man sent off, Pavel Vrba’sside were stunned by a late goal for their first defeat and instant elimination.
Coach - Pavel Vrba:
“It has been a long season in the Czech Republic and my players couldn’t perform to their true ability,” said the coach with a tear in his eye. “We were disappointing and the responsibility is mine.”
The Saudis gave a good account of themselves at the FIFA World Youth Championship UAE 2003 but will rue the profligacy in front of goal that cost them a spot in the Round of Sixteen. With two draws and one defeat, Daniel Roméo’s men did finish third in Group E, ahead of Mexico. The Sons of the Desert looked dangerous going forward though, and went some way to restoring the image of a side whose seniors also came away empty-handed from the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™.
Coach - Daniel Roméo:
“I’m very proud of my team. My players played excellent football over the three games. We had a lot of chances during the tournament and our problem was converting them. We weren’t far off, but that’s football.”
New boys UZBEKISTAN were not among the favourites, nor even the outsiders at the world’s showcase youth tournament. And their record of three defeats in three games for last place in Group B does not fairly reflect their performances in the UAE. The Asians came within a minute of taking points off both Mali (2-3) and Argentina (1-2). The experience gained in this competition should prove a fabulous springboard for Uzbek football in the future.
Coach - Viktor Borisov:
"Everyone knows you need a bit of luck in football. Sadly, fortune didn't shine on us in this tournament. We played some good games, we deserved a better deal but we lost just the same. We weren't here just to play football, though. We also wanted to represent our nation's culture and character. It's been a fantastic experience and we hope it stands us in good stead to qualify for 2005."
Mali very nearly made it through to the second round of the tournament,going out – and going home – on goal difference. After triumphing overthe Uzbeks (3-2), the Africans yielded to Spain (2-0) and Argentina(3:1), the eventual Group B winners. Mali will need to show moreopportunism in front of goal if they are to make strides in futureyears.
Coach - Mamadou Coulibaly:
"My players did their best. We knew we were drawn in a tough group but we went all out to qualify anyway. While I give them ten out of ten for effort, I still think we could have given a better account of ourselves."
Deprived of some of their best stars, retained on club duty back home, ENGLAND knew they would have their work cut out at the FIFA World Championship UAE 2003. And so it proved: two defeats (1-0 to Japan, 1-0 to Egypt), and a draw (0-0 against Colombia) was a disappointing outcome, especially as they failed to find the net. Coach Les Reed was quick to point out that his youngsters, some of them very young, had performed well against far more experienced sides than his own.
Coach - Les Reed (ENG):
"I'm going home very proud of what this group of lads did out here. They're all very young. Some of them could still be in the side next time round, in 2005. We were up against some top-class opposition but we held our own and despite not scoring I think it was a great experience for us all. We really enjoyed it. Do I think England should pay more attention to this kind of tournament? Of course I do."