Yves Débonnaire felt Switzerland showed flashes of their potential at the Under-17 finals but lacked the discipline, team ethic and focus required to stay afloat.
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The UEFA European Under-17 Championships provides an ideal learning curve for young footballers. Recovering from setbacks at this stage of a player's career can be an invaluable step on the way to becoming a more rounded professional – just ask Switzerland's charismatic coach Yves Débonnaire.
Leading 1-0 at half-time of their final group fixture against Scotland, and aware that a win could have taken them through to the semi-finals, the Switzerland coach watched on as his players let qualification slip out of their grasp. "I think you can accept at U17 level that you could lose your way a little, but what's a real shame is that we happened to lose our way at a time like this," Débonnaire told UEFA.com.
It was a harsh lesson, and one which Débonnaire believes will leave a lasting impression on his squad. "The players are going to learn from this," he added. "Then we will have to see if they actually do anything about it. There are some players who will learn things and act on it, whereas others learn and then don't do anything about it. That's what makes the difference.
"Some of these will still be around at U21 level, and some won't because it means they haven't learnt correctly. That's the reality, but that's why this tournament is magnificent. It's great because we had the chance of reaching the semi-finals, but instead we're going home."
During their week in Malta, Switzerland showed that they were punching anything but above their weight. Ultimately, though, a lack of focus at crucial times cost them a place among the final four. "It's down to consistency in your performance and discipline in your gameplan," said Débonnaire.
The Swiss coach added: "The players showed in every single match that they were on a par with everybody else – at times even better than the rest – but football is a team game. My players can be among the best, but not if they try to do it on their own. You can only do it together, working for each other."
It is a lesson in life that Dimitri Oberlin has vowed he will learn from once the initial disappointment has sunk in. "I don't really know what happened," said the FC Zürich midfielder. "We got into the [Scotland] game really well, but then we panicked a bit in the second half. During the interval, we thought we'd already qualified but then I don't know what happened. We just let it slip."
He and his team-mates nevertheless return to Switzerland richer from their experience in Malta. "I really think that losing in such a way will help us to grow more as footballers," said the 16-year-old. "It's something we can learn a lot from. This is a really great tournament for young players and the level is really high. We always knew it was going to be difficult, and so it proved to be.
"This tournament teaches you how you've got to be wary of every opponent; Scotland or Holland, the name doesn't matter. Each team is a team that you've got to try to beat, and you've got to do that by playing football."