Switzerland's Under 17 squad has beaten Nigeria 1-0 in the final of the World Cup in the Nigerian capital Abuja.This content was published on November 15, 2009 - 21:12
A day after the Swiss national side got booed off the pitch in Geneva after losing 1-0 in a friendly to Norway, the teenagers kept their composure and won their seventh game in a row thanks to Haris Seferovic's header in the 63rd minute.
The Swiss started tensely however. Their opponents, spurred on by a packed stadium of 64,000 fans, turned on the pressure right from the whistle and the first quarter of an hour saw some frantic defending by the Swiss.
Swiss coach Dany Ryser got a scare after less than ten minutes when his goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist – who has played a large role in getting the team to the final – took a boot to the head and was down for several minutes.
Siegrist recovered and the Swiss eventually settled and found their rhythm.
Both sides had a couple of chances – plus a few wild shots at goal – although neither team missed any sitters. 0-0 was a fair score at half-time.
The Swiss started the second half the better team and had two good chances within ten minutes.
It was third time lucky, when in the 63rd minute Haris Seferovic found himself on the end of a long corner and guided his header past the Nigerian keeper, silencing the home fans. Good goal!
This was a deserved lead for the Swiss, but how would they – and indeed their opponents – react? Push for a second or go on the defensive?
As it turned out, both sides upped their game and created chances.
And then in the 78th minute the Nigerians scored. Or at least they thought they had – and television replays of the resulting goalmouth melee, although not conclusive, certainly seemed to back their case.
But the goal wasn't given – Siegrist judged to have somehow kept the ball out – and Switzerland just needed to hang on for another 11 or so minutes.
Most of the rest of the match was spent in the Swiss half, but the Nigerians couldn't break the solid defence.
Peep! Peep! It's all over! Switzerland held on and are world champions! After victories against teams including Brazil, Germany, Italy and Colombia, Switzerland – population 7.7 million – has beaten a country 20 times its size to become world champions!
This was an excellent, mature performance and a fully deserved result - the Swiss commentator compared it to Roger Federer winning his first Wimbledon.
Benjamin Siegrist in particular stood out and was rewarded with the Golden Gloves award for the tournament's best goalkeeper.
"World Champions? That sounds wonderful," said Dany Ryser. "It'll take a while before we realise what we've done. We've fulfilled a dream."
He added: "We were well prepared for these opponents and we succeeded in containing Nigeria's pace. It's going to be a short night tonight – and one we'll never forget!"
While the U17's success bodes very well for the future, a more immediate – and admittedly pointless – thought was whether the U17 squad could beat the national team. At the time of writing, a majority of swissinfo.ch readers thinks it could.
For what it's worth, earlier in the day Spain beat Colombia 1-0 to claim third place.
Thomas Stephens, swissinfo.ch
Switzerland: Siegrist; Martignoni (68. Gonçalves), Chappuis, Veseli (78. Hajrovic), Rodriguez; Xhaka (90. Nimeley), Buff, Kasami, Kamber; Seferovic, Ben Khalifa.
Nigeria: Paul; Oliha, Chukwudi, Omeru, Aliyu; Egbedi (71. Kayode), Azeez, Ajagun, Envoh; Omeruo, Emmanuel (77. Otubanjo).
Young Swiss success
2002: U17 European Champions; U21 European semifinalists.
2004: U19 European semifinalists.
2005: U20 qualified for the World Cup.
2009: U17 European semifinalists and World Cup champions.
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