At every European final tournament, a UEFA Technical Team made up of experienced coaches analyse the action and tactical trends before helping prepare the UEFA Technical Report. On the Technical Team at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Germany are the experienced Holger Osieck, Football Association of Ireland technical director Wim Koevermans and new addition Ross Mathie, who coached Scotland in the finals 12 months ago. Mathie discussed his thoughts on the tournament with uefa.com.
uefa.com: What have you thought of the tournament in Germany?
Ross Mathie: The Germans have to be complemented on their organisation: the facilities, the training pitches, the hotels. Also they have got supporters into the grounds even when Germany have not been playing. I was really impressed by that.
uefa.com: And the football itself, a lot of the games have been very tight ...
Mathie: I think a tactical battle goes on, one detail might make the difference between winning and losing. For example [in their 2-0 semi-final loss to the hosts] Italy played a great first half, it could have gone either way, and it was only late in the game that an individual, the German No10 Mario Götze, a very, very good player, made a move, and all of a sudden a goal was scored.
In Group B, Germany were the best and thoroughly deserved to go on and the Netherlands were second best. [In Group A] it is incredible that [holders] Spain never scored a goal and only got three points. You imagine it would be a shock that Spain and France went out but the league table never lies. If Spain had an Alan Shearer up front they could have won the tournament handsomely.
uefa.com: There have been big crowds in this tournament, is it a help for players' development or does it inhibit them?
Mathie: From the point of view of the tournament, it's great. This is a massive tournament and the crowds have helped, it's helped all the countries. It's helped the Germans but also been a hinderance. In the first game they played, I thought they were nervous, when Turkey scored. Then they settled, the same happened against England. But it makes a massive difference to the players.
uefa.com: Germany, as hosts, did not have to qualify and without any competitive experience, have reached the final. Is it difficult to prepare a team to do that?
Mathie: I have been in the situation when Scotland hosted the [1989 FIFA U-17] World Cup [Scotland finished runners-up] and the [1998 European] U16s, we got knocked out in the group stage. I find it's a big burden, especially live television as well, the nation sees it and that can cause them a problem. But if any team are going to prepare for the finals well, it is Germany.
uefa.com: How has the Scotland U17 team you coached in last year's finals benefited from the experience?
Mathie: Every one of them has gained experience. A number of them have gone up to another level, like John Fleck, who played in the Scottish Cup final [for Rangers FC]. I think he would have got into the cup final whether he had been in Turkey or not, because he was that type of player, but he's benefited from it. And I have read a couple of articles in club programmes, and national newspapers in Scotland, other players saying, 'It was great to be there because I saw various things'. If there are players that say they did not learn anything, they will not last in the game.
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