• Coach owes the team a samba...
  • Preparation was the key to success
  • "We’re taking the trophy home with us. What more could you ask for?"

It was already clear from the group stages of the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2017 that Olympique Lyonnais’ Alan Dzabana was a special talent. The 20-year-old’s speed and mazy runs caused headaches for the opposing defences he came up against, and left them chasing shadows. The French youngster certainly deserved the adidas Golden Ball award for player of the tournament, and he played a key role in Lyon winning the Blue Stars title in their first-ever appearance.

"We’re over the moon. We never thought that we’d win the tournament," said Dzabana shortly after the final at the Buchlern Sports Complex. “We came to Zurich to see how far we would get, so winning the whole thing is obviously amazing for us. We played our own brand of football, we were well set up and, at the end of the day, we’re taking the trophy home with us. What more could you ask for?"

Team-mate Anthony Racioppi, who picked up the adidas Golden Glove for best goalkeeper, was equally thrilled with his two days to Zurich. "I can’t believe that we’ve won the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup in our first-ever appearance, and that I was chosen as the best goalkeeper of the tournament. It’s amazing. I’m proud that I didn’t let in a single goal and managed to help the team by doing that. As a Swiss national playing in France, it was obviously even more of a thrill to win a tournament like this in my home country. It was fantastic," said the Geneva-born keeper, before adding with a smile: "We’ve got a Brazilian coach. I think he owes us a samba for this …!"

Unfortunately for the team, the man in question – Lyon coach Cristiano 'Cris' Marques Gomes – was having none of it when interviewed after the match. "What, me – dance the samba? Says who – the players? First I’ve heard of it! I can’t dance. Sing maybe, but I certainly can’t dance," he grinned.

His team’s performance though was enough to make even Cris want to dance, sing and shout from the rooftops. Lyon got off to a flying start in the group stages with wins against Independiente Santa Fe and West Ham United, and they maintained their perfect record up to – and including – the final.

"We came to Zurich to play a good tournament. We worked really hard and prepared for this great event right down to the smallest detail. And we really took the fight to all of our opponents. We were incredibly well prepared," said the former Brazilian international.

"It’s not easy for the players to have 40-minute matches. Everything passes by so quickly. We are probably the ones who dealt best with the fatigue, and we managed to keep enough in reserve until the end. My players understood how it works right from the very beginning, and as a coach, all you can do is acknowledge how well they did. Congratulations to them."