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Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.

Spain To Miss UEFA U-17 Championship

May 2nd, 2013

Spain U17

The 2013 edition of the UEFA U-17 Championship begins on May 5th in Slovakia, which means it’s literally less than a week before the tournament begins. An arduous qualification process took place last year; the initial qualifying round took place between September and November 2012 with 52 countries. 28 survived the first round and advanced to the Elite round, which concluded just last month in March.

Spain, as you can imagine, made it to the Elite round, albeit barely. They booked their place in the final round on the basis of being the best third-place team among the 13 groups. La Rojita ran out of luck in the Elite round, losing to group rivals Croatia and France. A third-place finish was not enough this time, as only group winners Croatia earned a place in the tournament.

Because of their lackluster conclusion to qualifying, Spain is ineligible to appear in this summer’s U-17 World Cup in Saudi Arabia. However, it is not the end of the world for these young players. Some of these guys are among the finest U-17 players in Europe.

Some of the players have already hit the radar and made waves in their club’s youth ranks such as Jose Angel Pozo and Adama Traore. In fact, here are seven other U-17 players you should keep an eye on:

 

Pedro Chirivella, Valencia

Chiri was the youngest player on the squad this spring, having been born in May of 1997. The midfielder scored a goal from the penalty spot in each phase of qualification (against Poland in the first round and France in the Elite round), adding an assist in Spain’s loss to Croatia. He is currently playing for Valencia’s Juvenil A side, with promotion on the cards. You can follow him on his very active Twitter account: @pedro5chiri

 

Rodrigo Tarin, Barcelona

Born in July of 1996, Tarin was chosen as captain of the squad by manager Santi Denia. He scored the only goal of the game in a friendly against Italy’s youngsters in January. A native of Valencia, Tarin plays for Barcelona’s Juvenil A squad, where is an imposing figure at center back. Twitter: @rodrigotarin

 

Francisco “Curro” Sanchez, Sevilla

Sanchez is a great midfield talent. Born January of 1996, he is already playing for Sevilla’s reserve squad in the Segunda B division (third tier). Having played as a wide man, he is most comfortable in a deeper role, perhaps as a holding midfielder. Twitter: @currito3_Lpm

 

Joaquin Fernandez and Antonio Marin, Almeria

It is amazing that Almeria, a second-division club in Spain, had two canteranos playing in the Elite round.

Fernandez, born in May of 1996, has already played matches this season for the club’s reserves in the Segunda B. A deep-lying midfielder, Fernandez began training with Almeria’s first team in the summer of 2012: a testament to his talent. Marin, born in June of 1996, is playing with the Juvenil A side. As a defender, he started all of the matches in the qualifying round. I am curious as to how long these guys will stay within the Almeria organization, especially if the club stays in the second tier. Twitter: @MarinAntonio5

 

Roberto Nunez, Atletico Madrid

As a striker in Atletico’s cantera, it is extremely difficult not to compare this guy to Fernando Torres. Another young talent in the Colchoneros’ assembly line of young talent, Nunez has yet to break into the club’s reserves, seeing as how he is just 17 years old. He supplied two assists in the qualifying round against Poland and Croatia.

 

Nicolas Canizares, Juventus

Originally in Rayo Vallecano’s cantera, Canizares was swooped up by Italian giants Juve in the summer of 2012. There is a lot of potential for this defender born in February of 1996. He and Pozo were the only members on the team playing for clubs outside of Spain. Talking to AS about the move to Italy, Canizares said he was excited about getting the autographs of Andrea Pirlo and fellow defender Giorgio Chiellini. Twitter: @Nicolas5cgl

La Rojita quintuple bill heads up International break

March 19th, 2013

Can’t face the prospect of two weeks without seeing your club play during the International break? Fear not, as Spain’s supremely talented youth sides play a total of five matches in the next 10 days or so, with the Under 17, 19 and 21 outfits all in important action. With a summer full of tournaments for the lower levels of La Roja, all the best young talent from the world’s leading developer of footballers will all be on show, so expect plenty over the coming months.

We’ll start age ascending, and Santi Denía’s Under-17′s will attempt to do this week what the team’s from 2011 and 2012 couldn’t – qualify for the European Championships. Having squeezed through the first phase of preliminary matches, they now play the all-or-nothing Elite Round, where only the top team from each group will make it to the finals in Slovakia. The squad are already in their base in Croatia, who, along with the formidable opposition of Belgium and France, stand in the way of a passage to the tournament.

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The main thing to note from this year’s side is it’s defence. Granted, they have rotated between goalkeepers a lot (neither of the two in the squad played the last round of qualifiers), but the back four is solid, keeping clean sheets nearly all of the games they have played together so far. Much of this is down to the Barcelona trio of Xavi Quintilla, Juanma García and Rodrigo Tarín, the team’s captain and leader, but towering Juventus centre-back Nico Cañizares, Almería’s Antonio Marín and Javi Jiménez of Villarreal are solid as well.

They will be hoping to improve their attacking output though, having struggled for goals despite a vast array of talent in the ranks. In midfield, Valencia’s Pedro ‘Chiri‘ Chirivella especially will be a star, as well as Fran Curro Sánchez, already playing in Segunda B for Sevilla’s reserves, and Real Madrid duo Aleix Febas and Cristian Artiles. Their task will provide the creativity to those in attack, who include Man City wonderkid José Pozo, La Masia’s wing phenom Adama Traore, and Roberto Núñez, Atlético’s latest ‘new Fernando Torres’. It’s an extremely promising squad, but they will need to click in the little time they have together. Fingers crossed they make it.

Moving up a level, the U19′s begin the defence of their title for the second year running on Wednesday, playing for the first time since the Euro Final last July with a friendly against Germany. As you would expect the squad is strong again this year, with a lot of last year’s stars still eligible under the age limit. However, they have had a fair few injury problems lately, with the likes of Grimaldo and Sandro Ramírez out long term, and striker Raúl de Tomas also having to pull out. Deulofeu has moved up to the U21′s too so will not be able to win the Euro’s for a third time in succession, but in Fede Vico, Álvaro Vadillo and Moi Gómez, there is plenty of talent on the wings still.

Jony and Javi Manquillo will continue in a defence that on paper looks more solid than the vulnerable one we saw last year, however, it is the midfield that is particularly strong. Óliver Torres, who dazzled last summer for the same team, will partner Atlético teammate and captain Saúl Ñíguez, with Real Madrid starlet José Rodríguez also likely to join them. Sergi Samper can’t even make the squad, which is saying something. We have our fingers crossed that there will be a way of watching them play as it should be a great game against a highly-rated Germany side, which should also let us see who the new manager of the team is; Julen Lopetegui having been promoted back in August. Ginés Melendez is the most likely option.

spain u21 team

Speaking of Lopetegui, his U21′s also continue their preparation for the Summer’s Euros, with friendlies against Norway and Russia planned for the 21st and 25th of March respectively. Both countried have also qualified for the tournament, with the latter Spain’s opponents in the first group game in Jerusalem. They will be without Isco and De Gea who are in Del Bosque’s first team squad, but do have the returning Thiago Alcantara (one of 7 Barcelona players), who hasn’t featured since 2011, and Sergio Canales, a welcome addition following the injury problems that have plagued his young career so far.

Having qualified with ease from their group, they are also looking to regain the title they won in 2011 and will be strong favourites to do so, even though many of their stars could go to the Confederations Cup and may not play in Israel. These friendlies will provide the opportunity for some of the fringe players to stake their claims though, as did last month’s match against Belgium, where a team made up of players born 1992 and after managing a 1-1 draw. Both games will definitely be available on Spanish TV and online, so make sure you see the dates below to clear your diaries.

Under-17′s

21/03 – Croatia vs. Spain (3pm)

23/03 – Spain vs. Belgium (3pm)

26/03 – France vs. Spain (3pm)

Squad

Goalkeepers: Carlos Morales (Albacete), Carlos Marin (Atlético Madrid)

Defenders: Rodrigo Tarin (Barcelona), Xavi Quintilla (Barcelona), Nico Cañizares (Juventus), Javi Jiménez (Villarreal), Juanma García (Barcelona), Antonio Marin (Almería)

Midfielders: Fran Sánchez (Sevilla), Aleix Febas (Real Madrid), Joaquín Fernández (Almería), Pedro Chirivella (Valencia), Cristian Artiles (Real Madrid), Javier Fernández (Deportivo)

Forwards: José Pozo (Man City), Adama Traore (Barcelona), Roberto Núñez (Atlético Madrid), Mario González (Villarreal)

Under-19′s

20/03 – Germany vs. Spain (8pm)

Squad

Goalkeepers: Alfonso Herrero (Real Madrid), Rubén Blanco (Celta Vigo)

Defenders: Javier Manquillo (Atlético Madrid), Borja López (Sporting Gijón), Salva Ruiz (Valencia), Jony Castro (Celta Vigo), Francisco Varela (Real Betis), José Luis Gaya (Valencia)

Midfielders: Moisés Gómez (Villarreal), Óliver Torres (Atlético Madrid), José Rodríguez (Real Madrid), Álvaro Vadillo (Real Betis), Saúl Ñíguez (Atlético Madrid), Álvaro Medran (Real Madrid), Pablo Iñiguez (Villarreal)

Forwards: Iker Hernández (Real Sociedad), Santi Mina (Celta Vigo), Fede Vico (Córdoba)

Under-21′s

21/03 – Spain vs. Norway (8.30pm)

25/03 – Spain vs. Russia (8.30pm)

Squad

Goalkeepers: Joel Robles (Wigan Athletic), Diego Mariño (Villarreal)

Defenders: Martin Montoya (Barcelona), Marc Muniesa (Barcelona), Iñigo Martínez (Real Sociedad), Nacho (Real Madrid), Marc Bartra (Barcelona), Jordi Amat (Rayo Vallecano), Carles Planas (Barcelona)

Midfielders: Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao) Ignacio Camacho (Málaga), Koke (Atlético Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Barcelona), Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad), Pablo Sarabia (Getafe), Sergio Canales (Valencia), Cristian Tello (Barcelona)

Forwards: Rodrigo Moreno (Benfica), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Álvaro Vázquez (Getafe)

La Rojita Round-up: Under-21′s experiment, triumph for Under-18′s

February 6th, 2013

It was an extremely interesting week for Spain’s lower International levels, with some of the most promising players from the younger generations especially getting chances to show their talent as this year’s Under 21, 20, 19, and 17 sides all take shape ahead of summer tournaments. Also, we have the first, and surely not last, piece of silverware of the year, as the Under-18′s unsurprisingly succeeded in the Copa Atlántico.

We’ll start from the top, as Julen Lopetegui’s U21 team were held to a 1-1 draw away against a talented Belgian side on Tuesday. However it wasn’t the team we were used to, as only players born in 1992 and later were included in the squad (in preparation for when the age limit drops from 1990 in August). This meant that 12 players got debuts at La Rojita‘s highest level, including many of the U19 squad that triumphed under the same manager last summer, and a few of our favourites here at Football Cantera.

Spain U21's starting XI in Belgium

Spain U21′s starting XI in Belgium

Liverpool’s Suso, who debuted as a late substitute against Italy a few months back, started as the #10 and shone, putting in a really impressive first half performance that included an assist for Gerard Deulofeu to finish in rampant style. Rookie Athletic Bilbao ‘keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was another of the debutantes, and despite being impressive overall, could do absolutely nothing about Belgium’s equalizer. Van der Bruggen almost broke the net with his stunning effort before half-time, volleying expertly into the top corner from long range.

Sergi Gómez, the excellent Rubén Pardo, Paco Alcácer and Pedro Obiang, a regular in Serie A for Sampdoria finally given a long overdue chance, were the other starters playing for the first time, but it wasn’t until the second half that we saw the bulk of the new boys. Barcelona’s 17 year-old phenom Alex Grimaldo came on at half-time along with Atlético midfielder Saúl Ñíguez, who was soon joined by club-mate Óliver Torres for the last half hour. All three showed just why they are so highly rated and didn’t look at all out of place having made the step up, the latter especially catching the eye with an array of impressive passes and touches.

Unfortunately there would be no breakthrough for Lopetegui’s side though, but as usual, they dominated the game and did have chances, Deulofeu hitting the crossbar after an Óliver knockdown and Saúl shaving the goal-frame with a header. There were plenty of positives to focus on, with Dani Sotres, Arsenal’s Ignasi Miquel, Luis Alberto and Juan Bernat winning their first caps before the match ended too. The full squad will return for the next round of games in March, but many of the younger squad will re-unite for the U20 World Cup in June, before forming the new Under-21 a few months later.

An extremely busy man, Lopetegui will also be managing the Under-19′s this year, and he took charge of the U18 side in last week’s Copa Atlántico in Gran Canaria, where the younger players in contention competed in and won the four team tournament for a seventh successive year. Plenty of exciting names were on show, including a few who featured in our recent ‘Ones to Watch for 2013′ feature. You may not be surprised to find out that they didn’t disappoint either.

On the first match-day La Rojita took on Mexico, but didn’t get off to the best start with a late goal meaning they had to settle for a draw. Atlético forward Iván Calero opened the scoring with an excellent first half strike, and was the team’s best player on the night, but Pineda leveled things on 85 minutes. Just a day later they did get a win, a much changed team overcoming the local Canarias XI. A single Sandro Ramírez penalty decided the game, with the young Barcelona striker deciding not to celebrate against his regional compatriots.

This year's Copa Atlántico winners

This year’s Copa Atlántico winners

In the deciding game later that week, he was on target once again along with this year’s Juvenil DH sensation Santi Mina (who has scored for Celta Vigo’s first team in a friendly since then) in a 2-1 win over Portugal, enough to win the competition with 7 points from a possible 9, and seal the Golden Boot for Sandro. A Spaniard also took the accolade of Most Valuable Player, but surprisingly it wasn’t one of Lopetegui’s players, but Canaria’s Fran Núñez, who plays for Las Palmas. Although virtually unheard of, he could be one to watch out for given that recent MVP winners include Óliver Torres and Sergio Canales.

Finally, Spain’s U17 side have also been very busy as of late, already having met up three times since the turn of the year. In January they played for the first time since passing the first stage of European Championship qualifiers, beating a strong Italy side 1-0 courtesy of a powerful header from captain Rodrigo Tarin (Barcelona). This week they held a training camp in Las Rozas, with Santi Denía calling up a whole host of new players once again and using it as a chance to experiment. They haven’t fully convinced in recent years so will need all the preparation possible, with the Euro Elite Round kicking off in March before the final tournament in May, should Spain get there for the first time in three years.

Spain U17′s to take on Italy in friendly

January 22nd, 2013

After barely scraping through to the Elite Round of European Championship qualifiers, Spain’s Under-17 side play their first match of 2013 on Wednesday, with a tough test against Italy in Florence (3pm kick-off local time). Santi Denía’s team have already been preparing in Las Rozas for the next round of competitive games in March, where they will look to make the final tournament for the first time in three years.

However, the squad for the friendly looks a lot different to the one that was training last week, with a number of players being tested, but ultimately not called-upon. Back in October, the bulk of the latest team managed to earn a passage through the first qualifying stage on virtue of being one of the best third  placed sides across the 12 groups, but there are some new names. Denía will be looking to make some re-shuffles, probably in midfield and attack specifically  as  there is clearly a lot of improvement that the team can make.

Spain Under-17

Star names such as José Pozo, the Man City striker who featured in our Ones to Watch for 2013 feature, Rodrigo Tarin and Chiri re-appear, but the likes of Miguel Guirao, Javi Jiménez, Mario González, Juan Antonio Ros and Carlos Morales will be debuting should they play against the Italians. The common theme with those five is the teams that they play for, Murcia, CD Roda (who contribute two players), Cartagena and Albacete respectively, all of whom are unfashionable and lesser known, which is strange to see at this level. The suggestions are that the coaches have been looking outside of the box to reinvigorate the team’s options, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Just one player, Barca’s Xavi Quintilla has pulled out of the squad (club teammate Juanma García his replacement) so far, but there are some other noticeable absentees, as two of this year’s major players, Adama Traore and Joaquín Fernández also out injured too. Villarreal’s Javi García and Real Sociedad ‘keeper Tanis, first choice in the qualifiers, also miss out, but Denía may just be trying out new players before the Elite Round. La Rojita have had plenty of intriguing battles with their Italian counterparts at youth level down the years, including wins at U19 and U21 level in 2012, and this should be another. The full squad can be found below.

Goalkeepers: Santi Canedo (Atlético Madrid), Carlos Morales (Albacete).

Defenders: Rodrigo Tarin (Barcelona), Antonio Marín (Almería), Antonio Díaz (Almería), Juanma García (Barcelona), Nico Cañizares (Juventus), Javier Jiménez (Roda).

Midfielders: “Curro” Sánchez (Sevilla), Aleix Febas (Real Madrid), Javier Fernández (Deportivo), Ignacio Abeledo (Betis), Juan Antonio Ros (Cartagena), Pedro Chirivella (Valencia).

Strikers: José Pozo (Man City), Roberto Núñez (Atlético Madrid), Miguel Guirao (Real Murcia), Mario González (Roda).

Adama Traore

January 7th, 2013

Full Name: Adama Traore Diarra
Team: FC Barcelona
Position: Right Winger
Age: 16
Birth Date: 25th January 1996
Birth Place: Barcelona, Spain
Height: 1,78

You have probably heard about how Lionel Messi jumped through the youth teams at Barça and played for three different teams in one single season. It sounds quite extraordinary, but he is not the only player to do so. The latest one is Adama Traore, who also like many before him has been called the new Messi at La Masia. Adama started the 2011/12 season with his peers in Cadet A, before graduating to Juvenil B and then ending the season as a starter for Juvenil A.

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Among the many talents at FC Barcelona’s famous La Masia some go quite unnoticed. This was exactly the case for Adama during a few years as teammates like Fran Alvarez, someone Adama played with since he was 7 years of age, collected the glory as the next big thing. Lately however it’s been Adama who taken the spotlight in the much talked about and highly touted ‘96 generation at La Masia. With some incredible performances at Cadet A in 2010/11 including a stunning hat-trick against arch-rivals Espanyol, Adama more or less exploded in the coming 2011/12 season. After starting the season with Cadet A he would take on an important role with the club’s Juvenil B team mid-season before making an astonishing debut with Oscar Garcia’s Juvenil A. His debut was a 16 minute maste rclass in a game against Reus in which he proveded two assists to Dongou as the team were victorious in a 4-0 win. The Catalan boy with Malian roots has kept on impressing this season as part of the Juvenil A team even though he is two years younger than the majority of his teammates. He has featured in the NextGen Series this season starting as a bench player but quickly making himself indispensable to Jordi Vinyals’ team. His performances have made him one to watch even though he is one of the youngest in the tournament.

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Adama was born on the 25th January 1996 in Barcelona just meters from Camp Nou. He was born to Malian parents who had immigrated to the city during the 80’s. He started playing football at a very young age before joining FC Barcelona’s youngest team, Benjamin as a seven year old after already playing football at Florida and L’Hospitalet. Today, the Spanish U-16 international is a very disciplined and hardworking player. He is a master in one on one situations and very technical. He also possesses extraordinary speed, quite like the newly promoted FC Barcelona first team player Cristian Tello, which helps him create space away from his rivals with ease. During the last few seasons, Adama’s development in the Barça youth academy caught the eyes of coaches, scouts and spectators around Europe and Adama is without a doubt one of the most promising talents at the club.

See some of Adama’s highlights in the below video:

Ones to Watch 2013: Sandro Ramírez

December 30th, 2012

Full Name: Sandro Ramírez Castillo
Team: FC Barcelona Juvenil A
Position: Center Forward
Age: 17
Birth Date: July 9, 1995
Birth Place: Las Palmas, Spain
Height: 5 feet 8 inches

2013 promises to be a big year for the lad from Las Palmas. The diminutive attacker has had an impressive career already, with multiple Man of the Match performances in the NextGen Series, against Manchester City and PSG. The truth is that there have been only a few young Spaniards recently with the type of finishing prowess that Sandro Ramírez possesses. A talent level and eye for goal reminiscent of Real Madrid great Raul or current FC Barcelona star David Villa, two Spanish legends that the youngster would be wise to emulate.

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Like many players developed in La Masia, Sandro Ramírez is versatile, he may thrive in the center forward position but he is effective on the wing as well. He has excelled and found the back of the net at every level he has played within Barca’s youth system. He is a dangerous dribbler, causing defenders trouble when he has the ball at his feet. For La Rojita he has been nothing short of prolific, with seven goals in three matches for the U17 side in European Championship qualifying against Poland, Montenego and Malta.

Many cules are reticent to get too excited about Sandro after the disappointment of the much hyped Bojan Krkic, we at Football Cantera certainly do not want to overrate developing talent but needless to say we are excited by this seventeen year old. Many people may wonder how he will fit into a future Spanish side that will conceivably have Gerard Deulofeu and Jesé Rodríguez, neither of these players are center forwards, preferring to play on the wing and cut in.

Sandro Ramírez will have a big part to play if Barca Juvenil A are going to continue in the NextGen Series. The side finished top of Group 1 with Sandro helping to lead the way with two goals in a two-nil win against Tottenham Hotspurs. For Spain Sandro will have a chance this Summer to impress on a continental stage with the Spain Under-17 side. First, he and his teammates have to qualify via the Elite Round, something the U17s have not accomplished in the last two years. It will not be easy as Spain are in a group with France, Belgium and Crotia. If Spain do qualify they will be in Slovakia in early May trying to capture a youth prize that has eluded the country for the past number of years.

Impressive highlights from Sandro:

Ones to Watch 2013: José Ángel Pozo

December 28th, 2012

Full Name: José Ángel Pozo la Rosa
Team: Manchester City
Position: Striker
Age: 16
Birth Date: March 15, 1996
Birth Place: Malaga, Spain
Height: 5 feet 7 inches

Last January, fifteen year old José Pozo made the move from one Real Madrid to Manchester City, in a deal that could eventually be worth £5million. The highly rated Spaniard had his choice of a number of English clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, after an impressive thirty-four goal campaign in Real Madrid’s La Fabrica, but decided to join the interesting project at the Etihad. This is a transfer which could turn out to be one of the most important of Roberto Mancini’s Manchester career, the ability to lure one of the top prospects from Real Madrid is another sign of Manchester City’s rise within the footballing pantheon.

Pozo

Youth recruitment has been a focus of Manchester City in the last season or so with the shadow of the FIFA Financial Fair Play Regulations looming over Europe’s big spending clubs. The signing of José Pozo, one of the highest rated youngsters in Spain, to his first professional contract was a big step for City in ensuring a bright future for the Sky Blues.

Pozo prefers playing as the secondary striker, behind the center forward in the middle of the field. This enables him to use his strengths, his quick movement over short distances and supreme vision and distribution. His favorite player is Real Madrid great Zinedine Zidane and although the sixteen year old shows moments reminiscent of Zizou’s brilliance, he plays a different role from the Frenchman. He is already playing with the Manchester City reserves, experience that should help the youngster in his development although you would expect a loan move for the youngster to get his initial taste of first team football.

The boy from Malaga’s form in the U21 Premier League has seen him join the Spanish U17 team and a partnership with Barcelona’s Sandro up front could be lethal for La Rojita in their bid to qualify for the UEFA European Championship in May.

Elite Round draws made for the 2013 UEFA European Championships

December 7th, 2012

Spain’s Under-17 and Under-19 sides now know which teams stand in their way for European Championship qualification, as the draws for the Elite Rounds were made in Nyon earlier this week. Both will enter a group of four and play three games in a host country in the new year, with just the one team from each group making it through to the final tournaments in the summer.

As defending champions, for the second year running the U19′s received a by through the first round of qualifiers, but a re-match with the team they beat in both the group stages and final last year, Greece, now awaits them in the Elite Round. Croatia and Poland also stand in their way, with the games taking place in the latter nation across five days in early June. Julen Lopetegui’s team will be strongly fancied to make it through to the finals in Lithuania, but may be without a number of key places in both the Elite Round and, should they qualify, the tournament due to the U20 World Cup, where many of their star names will play instead. However, this didn’t prove much of a hinderance in 2011, when they marched to glory without the likes of Isco, Koke, and Sergi Roberto.

For the U17′s, it’s a case of third time lucky as they have failed to make it past the Elite Round in each of the last two years, despite having talented squads. They only scraped through the first hurdle of qualifiers on virtue of being one of the two best third-place teams, and now have an even tougher task having been drawn against France, Belgium and Croatia. All four teams have been regulars in recent youth tournaments and are all producing a variety of talent at the moment, and with just one team able to qualify it will be tough to call. Spain do have a good squad, but will need to be at their very best to end their recent misfortune and make it to the finals in Slovakia. Santi Denía remains manager, with the Elite Round matches hosted in Croatia next March.

Last year we didn’t have much luck when it came to viewing the games at this stage live, although the year before both levels had their matches televised in Spain and available online. Hopefully that will be the case again this year, with a strong demand to see the what the World and European champions have to offer below Vicente del Bosque’s first team. UEFA also announced this week the inauguration of the Under-19 Champions League, presumably to challenge the already well established and successful NextGen Series. Qualification will be based on first team performance, so the odds are that Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético will be Spain’s representatives in the 2013-14 edition.

Spain Under-17′s qualify for Elite Round of Euro qualifiers

October 26th, 2012

Spain Under-17’s squeezed through the first stage of qualifying for next summer’s European Championship this week, finishing third in their group despite winning two of their games. Level on points with leaders Poland and runners-up Bulgaria, they lost out on the head-to-head ruling, but still go into the draw for next year’s Elite round virtue of being one of the best 3rd placed teams across the 13 groups. Competition was tough though, and Santi Denía’s side were in serious danger of not qualifying after falling to a shock defeat at the hands of the Bulgarian hosts, but showed great resolve in the last matchday to overcome Poland and just about book their passage through to the next stage.

Top row (l-r): Estanislao, Roberto, Javi García, Marin, Tarín
Bottom: Chirivella, Juanma García, Adama, Quintilla, Olabe, Pozo

Earlier in the month the team played a couple of friendlies in Slovakia which provided a few warning signs, but their squad was a strong one with plenty of options in all positions, with their defence, heavily influenced by Barcelona, showing particular strength. In the first game against Azerbaijan they got off to a good start against the group’s whipping boys, and were 2-0 winners courtesy of José Pozo, Manchester City’s former Real Madrid prodigy, and Villarreal’s Javi García. Pozo also missed a penalty minutes after his goal, but it didn’t prove costly and La Rojita went on to dominate still, despite not creating an awful lot of chances.

Two days later they took on Bulgaria, who had a strong home support behind them and really upped their game for the visit of arguably the world’s most feared nation at youth level. Chavdar Ivaylov’s angled free-kick on the stroke of half-time separated the teams, but it was a scrappy encounter in which Spain struggled to really create anything, failing to even register a shot on target. After the failure of the last two generations of Under-17’s to make the final tournament, it looked for a moment as if the current crop could suffer the same fate, but they did the job that was asked of them in the final game, and deservedly ensured their place in the Elite round.

Poland, who had won both of their two games, stood in the way of Denía’s youngsters, but they stuck to their principles and grinded out a win, despite Bulgaria seeing off Azerbaijan in the other game to really tighten things up. They were made to sweat for it, but twelve minutes from time were given a great chance when Karol Hallmann upended Roberto in the penalty area, allowing Pedro Chirivella to step up and do what Pozo couldn’t in the first game and find the net from 12-yards.

With three teams level at the top on 6 points it went down to a head-to-head mini-league which Spain finished third, despite having a better goal difference than the Bulgarians. On Thursday though, it was confirmed that they were guaranteed a passage through regardless, as one of the best third-placed teams. It would’ve been hard to swallow had they been eliminated in this fashion having played well and won 2 of their 3 matches, but thankfully for us, we will see this year’s U17 team in action again in the new year.

Ones to watch:

Pedro Chirivella (Valencia) – Classy midfielder, and one of two players in the squad from the year group below. Known as Chiri, he played every minute and scored the decisive goal against Poland from the penalty spot.

José Ángel Pozo (Man City) – Arguably the standout player of this generation, the City forward is very fast and lively, and scores a lot of goals. Already featuring at reserve level in England.

Rodrigo Tarín (Barcelona) – The captain and leader of the team, Tarín is a highly imposing figure in defence, and Spain didn’t concede a single goal with him on the pitch. His club mate Xavi Quintilla is also an exceptional talent.

Joaquín Fernández (Almería) – A real midfield enforcer, Joaquín is Almería’s biggest talent in years. Also one of the few players to have experience at Under-17 level before, having featured last year.

Roberto Núñez (Atlético Madrid) – Very all round stiker with more to his game than goals. He forced his way into the team and made a real difference, winning the penalty that sent Spain through.

Adama Traore (Barcelona) – One of the biggest upcoming talents in La Masia. Played every minute of the qualifiers, causing constant havoc with his direct and powerful style on the wing.

Javi García (Villarreal) – Gifted attacker who has been fast-tracked to Villarreal’s Juvenil A squad. Possesses excellent skill and vision, and was on target in the opener against Azerbaijan.

Spain name squad for Euro Under-17 qualifying round

October 9th, 2012

Santi Denía’s Spain Under-17 team have spent a lot of time preparing for the first round of European qualifiers later this month, with the young manager testing a number of players out in training camps and friendlies in view of next summer’s tournament. La Rojita have failed to qualify for the last two versions of the competition, both of which were won by the Netherlands , but will be hoping the 1996 generation can take them all the way to the last 8 in Slovakia next May, and go one better than the 2010 team who lost in the final to England.

Last week, the team went out to Slovakia to get a taste of the experience, playing twice against the host nation in Bratislava. They were given quite the reality check though, conceding in the dying moments to draw the first game 2-2, and losing the second 1-0. Celta’s Yelko Pino and Barca striker Mohamed El Ouriachi ‘Moha’ were on target in the opening match, the latter one of five youngsters from La Masia to receive the call, along with powerful winger Adama Traore, and highly-rated defenders Rodrigo Tarin, Xavi Quintilla and Juan Manuel García.

 

Perhaps surprisingly, the next most represented team is Segunda side Almería, who look to have a lot of talented players coming through the ranks. Midfield enforcer Joaquín Fernández is their main name to follow, and defensive pairing Antonio Marín and José Manuel Sánchez are also called-up. Atlético Madrid and Real Sociedad provide a couple of players each, including the squad’s two goalkeepers, Santi Canedo and Estanislao Marcellan, and Real Madrid representation comes in the form of Juvenil C playmaker Aleix Febas. Their former jewel José Pozo, now of Manchester City will be involved too, and is probably the biggest name in the squad. The young forward will be a great attraction for any English viewers interested in watching.

Other names I would recommend looking out for include towering Juventus defender Nico Cañizares, who joined their youth ranks in the summer from Rayo Vallecano’s cadetes, Yelko Pino, a playmaker from Celta Vigo who is said to be supremely talented, Roberto Nuñez ‘Rober’, a number nine in the mould of Fernando Torres who plays in the División de Honor for Atlético’s Juvenil B side, and Javi García, another playmaker who was recently promoted to Villarreal Juvenil A. Plenty more talents are likely to emerge though, and the squad could well be much different for the Elite Round in March and final tournament in May, should Spain make it that far.

On October 15th, the team will meet up in Las Rozas for a few training sessions, before flying out to Bulgaria two days later to play the mini-tournament. In Group 4, they take on Azerbaijan (October 19th), hosts Bulgaria (October 21st), and Poland (October 24th). The top two make it through, so despite underwhelming friendly results, the young team will still be strongly tipped to top the table. The full squad is listed below.

Goalkeepers: Santi Canedo (Atlético Madrid), Estanislao Marcellan (Real Sociedad)

Defenders: Rodrigo Tarin (Barcelona), Nico Cañizares (Juventus), Antonio Marín (Almería), Juan Manuel García (Barcelona), Xabi Quintilla (Barcelona), José Manuel Sánchez (Almería)

Midfielders: Joaquín Fernández (Almería), Adama Traore (Barcelona), Aleix Febas (Real Madrid), Mohamed El-Quarichi (Barcelona), Roberto Olabe (Real Sociedad), Pedro Chirivella (Valencia)

Strikers: José Pozo (Manchester City), Roberto Nuñez (Atlético Madrid), Javi García (Villarreal), Yelko Pino (Celta Vigo)

Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.