FIFA U-17 WC: Spain thriving on individual brilliance and flexible plans

Apart from individual brilliance, it was teamwork and execution of its plans which has led to the success of the European side. Santiago Deni’s side adopted flexible strategies to challenge the strength of its rivals.

Spaniards celebrate victory over Mali in the semifinal of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.   -  PTI

Ferran Torres appeared like a whirl of red to his markers when he seared down the right flank and whittled in laser guided crosses to the middle of the rival penalty box where the prowling Abel Ruiz and Cesar Gelabert waited to pounce on it. On the left, the sight of the robust frame of Sergio Gomez tearing down the flank was nightmarish for rival defenders.

In this World Cup, Spain played a hybrid of tiki-taka where the short slick passing game was interspersed with pacy attacks from the flanks. The two wingers purred the attack and it was a luxury which many teams didn’t have and the duo played a significant role in the European champions entry into the final of the Under-17 Fifa World Cup.

After its loss to Brazil, Spain has improved with each match and won five matches on the trot to enter the final. Apart from individual brilliance, it was teamwork and execution of its plans which has led to the success of the European side. Santiago Deni’s side adopted flexible strategies to challenge the strength of its rivals. In the quarterfinal against Iran, which usually allows its rivals to dominate and then counter attack, the plan was to deny possession. Spain frustrated Iranians with short passing game and attacked from both flanks. When the game opened up, Spain attacked through the middle to ran the Iranians ragged. Against Mali in the semifinal, Spain played the waiting game allowing its rival to dominate and soaked up the pressure. Spain then hit back on the break when Mali attacked through the middle.

Abel Ruiz’s form — six goals from six matches – has been another factor for the Spanish success. Though the striker has missed a few, he has more importantly found the net when it mattered in the crucial matches. He has good rapport with Cesar Gelabert who also has chipped in with crucial strikes.

Spanish coach Santi had talked of multiple roles his players had to perform and one of those was to score goals and players were picked on that ability. Both Ferran Torres and Sergio Gomez, apart from their primary job as pacy wingers, got into scorer’s sheet which pleased Santi.

If at all there is one weakness Spain has to address before the final against England, it is the tendency of the defenders to lower their guard. It resulted in rivals scoring easy goals in counter-attacks. This happened against Iran and Mali in the knockout rounds and committing the same mistake against England will be disastrous. Spain’s goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez has been steady under the bar but he needs more support from his defenders.