ALAN VACCARO / AIPS* in ABU DHABI: Argentina’s coach Humberto Grondona thought his team’s early missed penalty at 0-0 was crucial in their eventual 3-0 defeat by Mexico in the semi-final here of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.

But he kept to himself his words to his players after the final whistle, saying: “You don’t talk about what a father says to his child.” Grondona added: “They have done a fantastic tournament so far, I’m very proud of them and of what they are doing.”

As for the match, Grondona insisted the opening five minutes – in which Sebastian Driussi missed a penalty and then Mexico went ahead – were decisive.

He said: “It was an intense game where the difference was in the net. Maybe the penalty would have changed everything but you can’t win a game with situtations, you have to score and we didn’.” Nevertheless he thought Argentina “went for the game every minute” even after being reduced to 10 players by the sending-off of Joaquin Ibanez.

Despite not reaching a first final in the U-17 World Cup, Grondona considered reaching the semi-final had been an important achievement. He said: “It’s been a long time since Argentina were in a semi-final and not only in youth categories.”

Playing now for third place was “unfortunately not the best” but “the players deserve to be on the podium”.

Grondona, who worked for four years with Mexico’s youth teams before returning to Argentina, congratulated El Tri for the win and added: “I hope they are the champions.”

Mexican pride

By contrast Mexico coach Raul Gutierrez declared himself a “happy” man even though he thought his team had played their best.

He said: “I will always be proud of this team. Ivan (Ochoa) has always been a very consistent player, mature despite his age and that is reflected in every game he has played.”

Gutierrez was looking forward to playing Nigeria again in the final. He pointed out that three of the last four teams in the competition had all emerged from the same first-round group and thus had extra knowledge of each other’s game.

Two-goal Ochoa paid tribute to his team-mates for his personal success.

He said: “I am very happy for the goals, it’s both personal and teamwork, finishing the moves created by the whole team. I am very happy to provide my contribution.”

“It also generates a lot of confidence to know that your team has the ability to come through anything.

“It’s also good to know that, as at the start, if one of us makes a mistakes then there is someone else who can put it right.”

That ‘someone else’ was goalkeeper Raul Gudino, who saved a third-minute penalty with the score still 0-0.

Gudino said: “I did my job that’s all. I think we were not really concentrating at the start but I think my penalty save gave my colleagues confidence.

“In the end it was a very good win because the entire team worked hard all through the game.”


* 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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