John McAuley speaks to Mexico Under 17 coach Raul Gutierrez, the first man to lead a host nation to the under 17 World Cup trophy.
Mexico coach Gutierrez tells UAE to enjoy hosting Under 17 World Cup
Two years ago, Mexico defeated Uruguay at an Azteca Stadium throbbing to the voice of 99,000 fans and became the first host nation to lift the Fifa Under 17 World Cup trophy. Raul Gutierrez, the architect of that triumph and still coach of the Mexico U17s, talks about the pressures of being defending champions, his memories of 2011, and how the UAE will handle the expectations of a World Cup on home soil.
q How difficult will it be for your team as defending champions?
a Being labelled as champions always generates responsibility, but we have been training with that in mind. Being one of the favourites also adds an extra motivation in everything we do.
What was the secret to your success in 2011?
There were many ingredients: support from the Mexican Football Federation, the backing of the clubs that lent us their players, the work of the national team and the youth national teams. And, of course, the main thing: the conviction of the players. They dreamed, they worked and that goal became a reality.
What was it like to play the final at the Azteca, and in front of so many people?
To everyone who has been fortunate enough to play in that stadium, it is always memorable. That day there was a special energy in the Azteca, and despite that, we knew the game would be complicated. We also realised that we had a good chance of winning. The excitement of having shared such joy with all the Mexican people will stay with you for your whole life.
You won the World Cup after the Mexico senior team sealed the Gold Cup – how much inspiration can an age-group team take from the success of their seniors?
Whenever your national team is doing well it always helps to have the younger teams working along the same structure. Obviously, every team has their own goals and their own values – some are shared with other age groups and some are individual targets, such as playing in the World Cup. But if your senior team is enjoying a good period, then it motivates everyone.
What pressures does hosting the World Cup present?
The expectations will always be greater because, in theory, and it must be stressed that it is ‘in theory’, you play with your crowd’s support and you’re used to external factors such as weather, the pitches, etc. Such expectations increase to such a degree that you become favourites.
What advice would you give the UAE team for the tournament?
That being the hosts is something that was just chosen by Fifa, so try to really enjoy your World Cup. Deliver what you need to deliver, do not leave anything to chance, and don’t think about all the details of being hosts. And live it with fun.
What do you think will represent a successful tournament for the UAE?
It can certainly be an important platform for significant development in football in this region. When a team hosts a World Cup, or any other sports event, and they have a good performance, it will always have a positive impact in every aspect.
Mexico v Nigeria, 5pm, Al Jazeera Sport
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