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After coaching Russia to UEFA European Under-17 Championship glory, Dmitri Khomukha praised the work of his players and staff before turning his thoughts to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates later this year.
Defender Sergei Makarov – who converted the decisive, sudden-death penalty against Italy – revealed the encouragement he recieved from his team-mates before he strode from the centre circle. "They told me, 'we believe in you'," he said, still in shock that he had a winners' medal around his neck.
Dmitri Khomukha, Russia coach
The first and second halves were different, but it is quite understandable. There was a lot of fatigue, not only physical, but mental as well. It was really tough for my boys, so there is nothing strange here. My coaching staff managed to choose the lads who can withstand the pressure in such stressful situations and show their strength. That is why we trusted in those guys.
This is an invaluable experience and there is no substitute for it. The boys understand what kind of opposition awaits in the future if they play for professional clubs. The coaching staff learned a lot as well. We are really happy that we took part in this tournament. As we managed to become European champions, we'll definitely try to win the World Cup now.
Dzhamaldin Khodzhaniyazov, Russia defender
I am speechless. I was not even dreaming that we would become European champions and Mr Platini would give us gold medals. Of course, we are all delighted. The coach did not say anything special to us at half-time. He just encouraged us a bit and asked us not to be afraid to play football. We will try to do our best at the World Cup and see what the end result will be. Each player just finds some extra resources and this helps us to win.
Sergei Makarov, Russia defender
I cannot describe how I feel right now. I still cannot believe that we have won the European Championship. Maybe I need some time and I will realise this in two or three hours. My team-mates told me, 'Just go, we believe in you. Do not be nervous. If you score, well done, if not, it can happen to anyone'. We were all really nervous, because it was a final with no place for mistakes. We started to play with cool heads in the second half and gained in confidence – our opponents did not know what to do.
We lost 3-0 to the Czech Republic [in the first match in qualifying], but right after we said we still believed that we would make the elite round and fight there. And now you can see what we have achieved.
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