The defeat against Brazil in their group league opener served as a wake-up call, enabling them to get their acts quickly, said Spanish head coach Santi Denia, ahead of his team’s FIFA U-17 World Cup semi-final against Mali.
Asked how the defeat against Brazil affected them, Denia said:”We quickly realised we had to get better and that was our job – the coaching staff’s. And that’s what we have been doing and that’s what we have to do in order to have a chance tomorrow.”
However, the La Roja juniors coach expects the game against Brazil to provide a tough challenge as Mali are a formidable side in age-group football.
“We know it will be a very difficult match. We know we have to get better in offence as well as defence. Mali are a very good team. They attack very well, use the width (of the field) very well, especially the lateral backs. It’s going to be a difficult match,” he opined.
Mali coach Jonas Komla also expected the game to be a tough one and said his team might hold a slight advantage of having played at the DY Patil Ground earlier.
“Spain is a big team. We don’t want to underestimate them. They are a very good team. We have played here. We know the pitch but we are in the semi-final and it is a big game. But, yes, we do have a slight advantage on account of the pitch,” said Komla.
Denia said his team has made small adjustments so far and will have to play as they have done so far and not change too much in its style.
“In this tournament, most teams have played in similar style. We have played equal teams, adapting a little bit in the game plan in every match. We have been making short adjustments.
“We know we cannot try to play transition game and that we basically need to play like we have been playing,” said Komla.
Denia emphasized his team was not under any extra pressure for not having won a world title at this junior level.
“I have said it before there is no pressure on coaching staff or players; there is no pressure at all. We know there are challenges ahead and it’s more about challenges and not pressure,” the Spaniard said.
About the hot and humid weather and its effects, Denia said it was up to the medical staff of the team to prepare the players.
“It’s a very important job of medical staff to prepare the players. Our players got used to the weather after the second match. Weather is something we cannot control. The one thing we can control is preparing for the match. That’s what we have been doing,” he said.
“Our players have recovered and feeling better after the (quarter final) match (held under rains at Guwahati against Ghana). The doctor and physiotherapist are working (with the players) and the team is ready for tomorrow,” said Komla.
“We know the captain is suspended (for the game), but we play as a team and there is no problem,” said Komla about missing Seme Camarra for the match after he had picked up two yellow cards in the earlier matches.
He also said his team, which had played on rain-drenched turf here and in Guwahati, can adapt to any conditions.
“Actually, we know how to play in very dry and very wet conditions. Nothing changes for us,” he said.
Similar to Spain, his team had made the semi-final after losing its opening group game to Paraguay.
“I then told my players it’s just one loss, we have two more games (in the group) and play it as if you are playing in the final,” he said.
And similar to Spain, Mali too had come through to the semis by winning all their remaining games.