Saturday 28 October 2017, 20:34

Santi Denia: My players should be proud

  • The Spain coach discusses the reasons behind his side's 5-2 loss to England

  • Denia also reveals his feelings after the reverse

  • "The boys will grow as people and as footballers"

After answering the final question at the post-match press conference, Santi Denia rose from his seat to leave and was caught off guard by the spontaneous round of applause that swelled across the room. The recognition took him by surprise, but he maintained his composure, gestured his thanks and made his exit.

Shortly beforehand, his Spain side let their lead slip against England to lose 5-2 in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.

"It's not a consolation, but I accept it on behalf of the team," Denia told just a few seconds after receiving the ovation. "It's for them because even though we didn't win, they had a great tournament."

That was also the message he gave his players after the final whistle: "I gathered them together on the pitch and told them to cry if they wanted to, but that they should hold that medal in their hearts and wear it around their necks, because it's not something you achieve easily and they worked like men to earn it."

The 43-year-old coach admitted that throwing away a two-goal lead was the toughest part to accept about the defeat: "It's very difficult knowing that we weren't able to hold on to our advantage. The goal they scored just before half-time hurt us. At the break, I told them we were in a good situation, but we just weren't able to keep it up."

Asked for an explanation as to what happened, Denia said: "We should've had more control of the ball, but it wasn't easy. The spaces behind our defence invited them to run at us, but the key was having possession. And we failed."

He paused before continuing: "We could even have scored another goal in the first half… but we have to give credit to England. They're a great team and they were in excellent shape physically. I congratulate them."

More to come Denia's task now is to pick his charges up again following the defeat. "They're going to experience a tough time and they'll feel down. They'll cry. Nobody can prevent them - or me - from feeling that. But they should be proud of the work they've done over the last two years. If not, they're being very unfair to themselves."

On a personal level, the former Albacete and Atletico Madrid defender, who has been in charge of Spain's U-17 side since 2010, is clear about what the future holds: "To continue the fantastic experience of being coach at this level, to keep producing crops of players, and for everyone to keep growing within the national association."

On the subject of his players, what does he make of the prospects of his current ensemble, with Sergio Gomez awarded the adidas Silver Ball and Abel Ruiz the adidas Bronze Boot in India?

"If they keep on believing that the most important thing is the group and the team, then they'll develop," he said. "They have talent and individual quality. They're just a step away from the professional game and this experience at the highest level – and there is no level higher than this – will serve them well as people and as footballers."