As the sun set on the Stade Colovray and the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship following Spain's 1-0 final victory against France on Sunday, all four final tournament coaches reflected on the Nyon showpiece, agreeing that it was so much more than just a competition.
Spain coach Jorge Vilda hoped that his side's second consecutive title would bring about a 'promotional impact in Spain' with more media exposure of women's football. Even for this year's champions, the old adage that it is not the winning but the taking part that counts held true. "It's good to participate in the tournament," Vilda told UEFA.com. "The players benefit in terms of personal development because they visit other countries and meet other people."
Those sentiments were echoed by Icelandic counterpart Thorlákur Árnason. "This competition is very important for the players," he said. "It's not all about winning, it's the experience and atmosphere which is very good for our young players." Árnason admitted that, although some of his squad suffered from nerves, they will benefit greatly from participating in the last four of a UEFA competition for the first time.
"Being at the final tournament, we have learnt about stress," said Árnason. "Most of the team in the first game were very nervous, and against Germany we had four or five players in the first team who had problems with nerves. Now that they have experienced that feeling, they will know how to handle it better next time. But let's not forget we were fourth overall, so it's the best achievement in the history of Icelandic football."
Germany coach Ralf Peter, meanwhile, believes his side's penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of France in the semi-final will be an important learning curve for his team. "The players can see how narrow the line is between success and failure," said Peter. "Our excellent match against France did not deserve a loser, but that's football, and that's what is so beautiful about the game. It was a fine advertisement for women's football."
Peter added: "I am extremely happy that this competition takes place because friendlies do not compare to competitive matches and for our young players, this is an extremely valuable experience."
Francisco Rubio, whose French side suffered their own heartache after Spain winger Alba Pomares scored an added-time winner in Sunday's final, highlights how adversity can only make Les Bleuettes grow stronger. "Football is cruel," said the former AS Nancy-Lorraine and Olympique de Marseille midfielder. "It was cruel for the Germans in the semi-final penalty shoot-out against us and it was cruel for us in the final. My players will remember this experience, and I hope they will have more experiences like this, and play in other finals."
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