WISSAM DEHBI / AIPS* in AL-AIN: Swedish coach Roland Larsson, could not hide his delight after a 2-1 victory over Honduras propelled his team into the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.
“I’m so happy, I don’t know what to say,” he commented. “We weren’t good in the first half, especially because of lack of concentration, but in the second half we decided to go forward, and my players had the will to win and also the energy so they could achieve their target.
“The substitutions were crucial in this match as well as in previous matches so this also makes me satisfied as a coach”
Asked about Sweden’s ambition on arrival in the UAE, he said: “When we came here our goal was to qualify for the second round. Honestly I didn’t believe that we could do this, especially because it’s our first participation.
“This experience is very important for a country like Sweden which wants to be more present in the European competitions so it is the beginning “
He thought several of his team had the potential to progress to the senior national team in time.
Larsson said: “There are a lot of things which may happen to these players, they are young and there are a lot of factors that may divert their career, but if we can get two or three players to the first team it will be something good.”
Match-winning striker Valdimir Berisha had no doubt that Sweden had been completely superior to Honduras.
He said: “We absolutely deserved the win since the first minute but because we didn’t give our 100pc we made it harder for ourselves. If we had played 100pc from the beginning then we would have won 4-0.”
Berisha was not concerned about the opposition in the semi-finals. He said: “It doesn’t matter who the next rivals are. We are a good team and we are not afraid of anyone though we respect all of them.
“I’m looking to the final, that’s for sure, but we are now among the best four and I’m very glad for that.”
Honduras coach Jose Valladares was upset at his team’s elimination, especially after they had opened the scoring.
He said: “I’m proud of my boys. We played well. We are not happy, but I’m sure that we did something good in this tournament.
“I’m sure this experience was very important for them our players and will be beneficial in time for the senior national team.”
Honduras midfielder Anoal Hernández was as sad as his team-mates at not achieving their objective but still insisted they are going home, after their 2-1 defeat, “with our heads up because we know we did everything as best we could.”
Hernandez also explained an incident with Sweden’s players the minute after the game finished. He admitted: “It was because of the frustration. Nobody wants to lose. But when we got to the locker room we start crying, we talked and reflected about it that we shouldn’t have done it because we need to accept that this time we had to lose.”
Isaac Borjas said: “It was a hard game but still we gave it all to win. I can’t say now what we did wrong in those 10 minutes [when Sweden scored their goals]. We feel a bit of frustration because we knew it was possible to win.”
* AIPS, the international sports journalists association, is running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA
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