The dust has finally settled on what has been an emotional Mundialito for the U10s filled with both ups and downs. The U10s were in a fairly unique position going into the tournament being a newly formed team with limited match experience but a solid squad nonetheless with the boys all keen to test themselves against the very best in the world of their age.
The group draw had placed us in a tough group with Valencia CF, Gimnastic de Manresa, Montreal Stars and a USA Select team. The two Spanish teams not only would have undoubted talent in their squads but would regularly attend such tournaments and play against other top teams such as Barcelona and Real Madrid. As for the North American teams I knew that with its newfound love for all things ‘soccer’ that they could also be tough opponents.
So we finally arrived at the hotel in Salou and found ourselves brushing shoulders with teams such as Ajax, PSV, Sporting Lisbon, FC Porto, Rangers, Schalke, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla, Liverpool, Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbache. It was like a who’s who of the worlds elite football teams. I think this alone served as a bit of a wake up call to the boys and got them fired up for the tournament ahead.
The first day of the tournament was met with a loss against the USA select team but what I soon found out about the U10 team which is a great quality to have in football is that they were able to put it out of their heads straight away, have fun back at the hotel and focus on the days ahead.
Day two was met with two more losses against Montreal Stars and Gimnastic de Manresa but saw standout performances from JJ and Suhaib in the respective matches, which was pleasing to see.
Our toughest test would come on the final group match day against Valencia and despite another loss the first half was one of the greatest coaching experiences I’ve ever had. The boys grit their teeth, dug down and battled. Every shot was met with a deflection or save, every cross was met with a defensive header, every run was covered and every loose pass was met with a swift counter attack. We had kept a team that were beating opponents by 20+ goals to just 2-0 with nearly half an hour gone. That was only made possible by outstanding performances from all the U10 boys.
Our group performances meant we were placed in the bronze category against South African team Easterns who ultimately had too much physicality for us and ended our tournament earlier than we all had hoped. With that being said all the boys can hold their heads up high as nearly every opposition coach commented on how they were a team of fighters for never giving up.
My hope is that they retain this quality but add to it the desire to want to improve everyday and become better players for future tournaments. Remember, “excellence happens when you try each day to both do and be, a little better than you were yesterday”.