ALAN VACCARO / AIPS* in ABU DHABI: Humberto Grondona’s last call to arms before Argentina’s thid place play-off against Sweden in the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 was straight to the point.

He said: “If the games were easy we would not have come to the stadium today we would have stayed in the hotel.” This game, Argentina’s coach warned, would be “as hard as every other one.”

Grondona confirmed that the entire squad is available apart from the two sent off in the semi-final defeat by Mexico: midfielder Joaquin Ibanez and goalkeeper Augusto Batalla. He described his team as “OK [though]  happy and sad at same time” because of not having a chance of winning the championship.

As consolation, the Grondona assessed the balance “as very positive for the future” on the basis that they had something not managed by an Argentina team in recent years. He said: “The idea is always that Argentina have to be among the top four. So we are happy”.

He thought that, instead, Argentina would win the World Cup Chile 2015, saying: “We will be closer to Argentina and we are working with a very good team”.

Grondona maintained his controversial stance about over-age players, saying: “What I wished for that tournament is that all national teams had 17 years. Our good thing is that we are honest in the ages of our players in this tournament and that is too much advantage for the others.”

As for the final between Mexico and Nigeria, Grondona expected a very different game to the group opener when Nigeria won 6-1 because “Mexico have improved and Nigeria are vulnerable.”

Grondona, who worked for four years with Mexican youth teams, added: “I will wait and see whether God wants me to be happy. Sometimes, one out of 10 times, the less favourite 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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