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