FIFA U-17 World Cup: Spain coach Santiago plays his cards smartly

Spain is the under-17 World Cup’s eternal bridesmaid, a three-time runner-up (1991, 2003 and 2007), hence one was curious to know what the team has done differently this time to lift the trophy.

“The team is very excited and the boys want to win the World Cup, we have a lot of energy this time," Spain U-17 head-coach Santiago Sanchez said on the sidelines of his team's practice session on Wednesday.   -  H Vibhu

With Brazilian Vinicius Junior missing, a desperate search is now on to spot a youngster who could hog the limelight at this year's FIFA under-17 World Cup in India.

And as the teams get ready for the marquee event, everybody appears to be zeroing in on Spain’s Abel Ruiz Ortega. The youngster fits the bill perfectly too.

The 17-year-old FC Barcelona ‘B’ striker has been in great form the last couple of years, helping Spain win the under-17 Euro Championship in Croatia a few months ago and also emerging as the highest-ever goal scorer in the under-17 Euro history.

With so many eyes on him, the pressure on Abel will certainly be heavy. But Spain’s coach Santiago Denia Sanchez, a former international, tried a few things to ease the pressure on the youngster.

“Abel is a team player and he knows that without the team, he cannot win it,” said the 43-year-old Olympian, playing his cards smartly, after Spain’s sweaty training session at the Maharaja’s Stadium here on Wednesday afternoon.

“Our job is to work together in a group so that he can perform to his best level.” Requests to talk to Abel were also turned down.

Spain is the under-17 World Cup’s eternal bridesmaid, a three-time runner-up (1991, 2003 and 2007), hence one was curious to know what the team has done differently this time to lift the trophy.

LOT OF ENERGY THIS TIME

“The team is very excited and the boys want to win the World Cup, we have a lot of energy this time. We want to continue with the work we had done in under-17 Euros,” said Santiago, a former Spanish defender who played for nearly a decade for Atletico Madrid.

And once again, he was quick to turn down the ‘pressure’ volume. “But there are still areas we need to work, to win the championship, especially in tactics and defence.” There are four players from FC Barcelona and five from Real Madrid in the Spanish team.

However, midfielder Alejandro Orellana (also from Barcelona), who was a regular starter in the Spanish team in the under-17 Euros, had to miss the World Cup with an injury. “Alejandro didn’t travel with the team, he is injured. But Spain has so many good players who can replace the injured player.”