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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Spain can take heart from their show despite Brazil loss

Spain can take a lot of heart from their performance in the FIFA U-17 World Cup group stage and, despite going down to Brazil in the opening encounter, they did well to come back strongly and defeat Niger 4-0 and North Korea 2-0 in the remaining games to reach the knockout stage.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 16, 2017 22:40 IST
FIFA U-17 World Cup,FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017,Spain national under-17 football team
Spain will take on France in their Round of 16 clash of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. (PTI )

After a tough opening match, Spain are in the knockout stage of the FIFA U-17 World Cup and their first game is against another European giant with a rich footballing history --- France --- in a couple of days. France have made it to the pre-quarters as Group E topper after three comprehensive wins over Japan, Honduras and New Caledonia, so naturally their confidence level will also be pretty high.

But, Spain can take a lot of heart from their performance in the group stage and, despite going down to Brazil in the opening encounter, they did well to come back strongly and defeat Niger 4-0 and North Korea 2-0 in the remaining games and make it to the knockout stage.

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It is always tough to play Brazil first up in a tournament. While yes, winning it would have set the tone for Spain, but, honestly the scoreline didn’t justify the work put in by the Spanish team. In the second half the team played attacking brand of football. But, Spain should give it to Brazil for putting up a robust defence. In Spain’s next match, they showed what they are capable of against Niger. I feel the team will only get better in the knockout stages.

Back in 2003 U-17 World Cup in Finland, I was part of the Spain team that lost to Brazil in the final. That was the only time Spain played Brazil in U-17 World Cup competitions before both countries again met at Kochi on October 7. Losing the final at any level is always tough and the 2003 U-17 final was no different. Spain tried everything possible after conceding early. Brazil’s organised defence thwarted their attacks throughout the game.

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Brazil have been one of the finest exponents of football for time immemorial. To play against them is never easy for any team in the world, leave alone Spain. In retrospect, overall it was a very good tournament, and I think it benefited the players who then went on to represent the country with pride and won many laurels too.

Spain have qualified for the U-17 WC after eight years, so surely the team is raring to go. The team is coming at the back of winning the U-17 European Championship in Croatia so they should take a lot of encouragement from that. The current squad has a few new names but the core remains the same, so I believe they stand a good chance of making history.

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Captain and forward Abel Ruiz has been in great form so the team doesn’t have to go too far to get inspiration. He showed his real qualities against Niger. Having said that, I feel Carlos Beitia has also been rock solid at the back and created some good chances upfront.

Spain have produced many players who have gone on to become stars and legends of the game. But honestly, it’s not easy to be a footballer in Spain. The grind there is something you won’t see elsewhere. The moment you kick the first ball in life is when the competition starts, first to be the best in your family, then community, then school, then youth club then college and so on and so forth. And, then, there are only a few clubs who have youth systems to match the history of their club like Real Madrid and Barcelona, so for our country, it’s more like embarrassment of riches when it comes to footballers.

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I can see a lot of passion for football in India too. The FIFA U-17 World Cup here will do a lot of good for Indian football as a whole. I saw some of their matches on TV, and they showed lot of guts and, mind you, there is enough talent out there. If the core of this team remains as it is, they can do wonders for India. This was their first ever FIFA competition, so they need to just keep working hard together and maybe in their next competition, put up a more robust show. India’s goalkeeper Dheeraj has been very impressive.

This FIFA U-17 World Cup will change the world view of Indian football as well. The ISL is gaining popularity among European countries. There are a lot of players from across Europe playing for different teams. And, with a longer season, players will also get more playing time and stronger competition. Year after year, across Europe, including Spain, people have realised the potential of India.

The ISL over the last three years has been able to ignite the passion among players and fans alike in India. These are just the right steps by AIFF and ISL both. Adding to this, if the ISL clubs start setting up academies like FC Pune City has, it will further strengthen the system. Spain’s La Masia and La Fabrica are classic examples of what top-notch academies can do to the fabric of sport in the country.

(A defensive midfielder who played for Real Madrid in the Spanish League, Ramiro went on to represent Girona, Almeria and Llagostera before moving to Delhi Dynamos in 2016. He has been signed by FC Pune City this season)

First Published: Oct 16, 2017 08:18 IST