Austria coach Hermann Stadler hopes his team will learn to be "ready for the first match" in future tournaments after their slow start to the 2013 UEFA European Under-17 Championship cost them dear.
Stadler and his squad headed home on Sunday having finished third in Group A, though the atmosphere on the team coach for the three-hour drive back to Vienna from Zilina would not have been entirely sombre, with a place at the FIFA U-17 World Cup for consolation. Stadler told UEFA.com that his team's opening-game defeat by hosts Slovakia meant they could not have dared hope for much more.
"We learned that especially in the first match; we never give 100%. It was the case in the elite round and in this case as well. We played in a very disciplined way, but we can never play to our full strength in the first match," said Stadler, whose team conceded an added-time winner to the host nation in Dubnica nad Vahom.
"I hope at the World Cup we'll start quicker, that we'll be more ready for the first game, so that after the first match we will not have our backs against the wall. If the players have used the last three matches to learn, then we are on the right track, and we have a good chance to get a good result at the World Cup."
While missed opportunities against Slovakia eventually proved their undoing, a spirited second-half display against Sweden in the duo's 1-1 draw in their second group game was followed by an excellent opening 40 minutes against Switzerland in their must-win final group stage encounter. More than his team's two goals, however, Stadler appreciated his side's stoicism in the face of fierce Swiss pressure in the closing stages.
"The players need more of this experience, more of these matches. But then again, with our backs to the wall, we played with good stability. We were resistant to stress and showed a will to fight and plenty of aggression, and because of that we deserve to finish third."
A berth at next October's FIFA U-17 World Cup was the minimum objective established for his team by Switzerland coach Heinz Moser, who could barely disguise his disbelief that his side had only a point to show from their three matches.
"Basically, there is nothing positive," said Moser, whose team had bested Austria in the qualifying round. "We came here to reach the semi-finals. Now we are in fourth place with one point and I think that makes it a very disappointing tournament for us."
Surprised, like Austria, by debutants in their opening game, Moser's squad responded to the 1-0 loss to Sweden by going 2-0 up inside 30 minutes against Slovakia. The hosts' rally to draw 2-2 was undoubtedly the moment Switzerland's semi-final ambitions all but ebbed away, though a point from their final group game would still have seen them finish third.
"We'll analyse things in peace later on," said Moser, not keen to draw hasty conclusions. "Obviously the preparation and the performance in the tournament are the most important things, and we'll analyse the things we missed. It was clear that our side has some strength. We came with a clear goal, an objective to reach, and we unfortunately didn't achieve it."
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