FIFA U-17 WC: Ruiz’s return to form good news for Spain

Five years ago, Abel Ruiz’s sparkling play in kids’ tournaments in Spanish towns like Benalmadena and Arousa caught the eye of Barcelona scouts. There were others who were heavy scorers but it was the boy from Valencia who walked away with the best player award.

Spain Abel Ruiz (right) and Niger's Ibrahim Namata vie for the ball in Kochi on Tuesday.   -  H.Vibhu

Five years ago, Abel Ruiz’s sparkling play in kids’ tournaments in Spanish towns like Benalmadena and Arousa caught the eye of Barcelona scouts. There were others who were heavy scorers but it was the boy from Valencia who walked away with the best player award.

Ruiz, who moved from Valencia to Barcelona, has turned out to be a fine pick and he is now U-17 Europe’s top goal-getter. That impressive record had put him under tremendous pressure at the FIFA U-17 World Cup and it only increased when he returned empty-handed from Spain’s big game against Brazil in Kochi the other day.

But with two goals against Niger – the first following a beauty of a cross from the left from Juan Miranda which left three defenders standing in a line virtually hypnotised – the Barcelona ‘B’ forward’s confidence is now back.

READ: FIFA U-17 WC: Brazil overcomes Korea to enter next round

That should do Spain a world of good.

“Abel has been in the team for the last two years and he is a renowned name, for the national team and for Barcelona. He is doing well and in future, he will continue to do good,” said the team coach Santi after Spain’s 4-0 victory over Niger here on Tuesday night.

“He has a bright future for the national team and for Barcelona and he is a player who could be pushing the other players in the national team too.”

The agile and alert Ruiz, Spain’s captain in the World Cup, could virtually smell the goals coming.

FULL OF DRAMA

His opening goal was a neat tap while he was on target for the second after his first attempt rebounded off a defender following a free-kick.

He could have scored at least two more but Santi said there were no worries over the misses.

“It’s not a worry that Abel is missing chances. The technical staff will tell Abel and the other players to improve in a certain way so that they take the chances in a better way,” said the Spanish coach.

European champion Spain has never won the under-17 World Cup, it was runner-up thrice, and it will need Ruiz to be at his best as it tries to break the curse this time.

Friday’s game against North Korea here should not be much of a worry but the bigger challenges will come with each round after that.

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