It was an evening they will never forget. Benjamin Siegrist, Haris Seferovic and Nassim Ben Khalifa were the stars as Switzerland marched to a sensational triumph in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2009 with a 1-0 victory over host nation and defending champions Nigeria at the packed Abuja National Stadium. The triumphant trio were to be found in the catacombs of the arena long after the final whistle, chanting the classic 'We are the Champions' with the trophy in tow.
Goalkeeper Siegrist proved to be the match winner with a number of sparkling saves that helped him pick up the Golden Glove as the best keeper of the tournament. Playmaker Nassim Ben Khalifa also impressed with some incredible displays of individual talent throughout the competition and takes home the Silver Ball as the second-best player at Nigeria 2009. Striker Haris Seferovic scored the winning goal in the final, though he narrowly missed out on the Golden Shoe for the tournament's top scorer as despite notching five goals, he required more playing time to do so than Spain's Sieger Borja, Nigeria's Sani Emmanuel and Sebastian Gallegos of Uruguay.
There is little doubt then that these three young talents were the catalysts in the Swiss team's title success, and FIFA.com caught up with them for an exclusive interview shortly after the final whistle.
Benjamin, Haris and Nassim, congratulations on winning the U-17 World Cup! Can you sum up your feelings in a few sentences?Siegrist: It's hard to put it into words. It's simply the greatest thing I've ever experienced. It's the happiest day of my life so far by a mile!
Seferovic: It means so much, it's crazy. No one back home would have thought it and in all honesty I don't think any of us were thinking we could win it before we set off for Nigeria. Lots of people lent their support and that gave us confidence. National team coach Ottmar Hitzfeld told us before the tournament: "Lads, you have to keep going, whatever stands in your way. Just keep going!" And that's what we did!
Where did you find the power and energy to keep the Nigerians at bay for the entire 90 minutes?Ben Khalifa: We knew that Nigeria had a few tactical weaknesses, so we decided to approach the game in the same way we did against Brazil. Luck played a part of course, but you need that. We made sure we hit corners to the back post because we knew that the Nigerians never put a player there.
Siegrist: We just had to be very, very patient and give 100 per cent for the full 90 minutes. That's our biggest strength and it's how we won the World Cup.
What was it like in the first few minutes of the match playing in front of 60,000 fans all cheering on the opposition, particularly in light of the fact that they created three decent chances very early on?Ben Khalifa: The first few minutes were a bit of a blur. It was a completely new experience for us but luckily we got a grip fairly early. To be honest, Nigeria were clearly the better side in the first half, but we came back!
Siegrist: Absolutely. It was a really weird feeling in the first few minutes. At the start it felt as though we were going to be suffocated by the atmosphere and the Nigerian attacks, but we kept it tight and I'm very proud of the team.
Haris, you could always be relied upon whenever Switzerland needed a goal and you only just missed out on one of the awards for the top goalscorers. Surely it's been a dream tournament for you?Seferovic: Definitely. I scored five goals, the winner in the final and won the World Cup. Of course the success of the team is more important, but things went almost perfectly for me. I'm extremely proud.
Benjamin, you've been touted as a top quality goalkeeper by fans and experts alike throughout the tournament and you kept your team in it on several occasions. Where do you get such strength and composure at such a young age?Siegrist: I can't tell you to be honest. I just try not to get too carried away and concentrate on my game. Just to clear things up, though: the match winner tonight was the team, not me. I wouldn't have been able to do anything without the rest of the team.
The World Cup trophy is in your hands and the football world is at your feet. Where do you go from here?Seferovic: Tonight we're going to party! What else?
Ben Khalifa: I don't think we'll be getting much sleep tonight, that's all I can say.
What could be better than winning a FIFA World Cup at 17 years old? The broad grins of these three lads will surely last all the way back to Switzerland, although coach Danny Ryser, a quiet and considered tactician, had a few wise words for his charges: "Winning the title is wonderful, but it's important that they don't get carried away. If they think they've made it now then they won't win a thing next year. Still, this is a great moment for Swiss football. We're heading to South Africa with a strong senior team and I hope that some of my lads will be playing in Brazil in 2014 - hopefully with as much success as they've had here in Nigeria!"