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Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.

Results – Fútbol Draft 2013

May 22nd, 2013

The 8th edition of the prestigious Futbol Draft award was decided on Tuesday, with the top 33 young talents in Spain being honoured by an independent panel of experts from the RFEF, LFP, AFE and more. Players born after 1992 were voted into three teams, Gold, Silver and Bronze, based on who the panel think are the most promising at this moment in time.

In recent years the likes of Thiago, De Gea, Fabregas, Pique, Mata, Javi Martinez and Busquets have all been honoured with places in the Gold XI, but who are the next generation of stars that could be unconvered by Futbol Draft? We take a look at the three teams.

Gold

ORO

In goal is for me the obvious choice, Athletic Bilbao ‘keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga having had a great year in particular with Spain’s U19 side, where he kept goal for their European triumph and earned a promotion to the U21’s.

In defence, Bayer Leverkusen’s Dani Carvajal has taken the regular Bundesliga action with ease and is wanted back at Real Madrid, with Sevilla’s breakthrough star Alberto Moreno on the other flank. Catalan pairing Jordi Amat and Sergi Gómez make up the central pairing, the latter enjoying another solid campaign for Barca B, and Espanyol’s Amat having reminded us again of his quality on loan at Rayo.

Atlético Madrid duo Koke and Saúl Ñíguez are chosen in the heart of midfield. As an undisputed starter for the rojiblancos Koke picks himself and keeps his place from last year’s Gold XI, although 18 year-old Saúl is a little more surprising, but not undeserved nonetheless. Málaga’s Isco Alarcón is of course the playmaker, and is arguably the biggest talent in the team.

Despite an underwhelming campaign, Basque wonderkid Iker Muniain is included for a third successive year, with teenage star Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona) and Álvaro Morata (Real Madrid) unsurprisingly making up the attack.

Silver

PLATA

A regular for struggling Racing Santander, Dani Sotres is chosen as goalkeeper for the Silver team. The youngster is likely to keep goal in the U20 World Cup for Spain next month.

Two more of last year’s Under-19 heroes are in defence, tough centre-half Derik Osede of Real Madrid, and Celta Vigo’s 19 year-old utility man Joni Castro, who has enjoyed a solid first campaign in La Liga this year. They are joined by Pablo Iñiguez, another teenager who is now a regular in Segunda with Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao left-back Jon Aurtenetxe, who provides experience to the team.

The midfield is made up of three young talents who all debuted for Spain’s Under-21’s last February, Real Sociedad’s playmaking prodigy Rubén Pardo, tough tackling Pedro Obiang of Sampdoria, and the pearl of Atlético Madrid’s cantera, young Óliver Torres.

Ahead of them, another of this year’s La Liga breakthrough stars in Rubén García (Levante) makes the team, as does ex-Real Madrid wing wizard Pablo Sarabia. Now at Getafe, he is not their only representative in this team, with Paco Alcácer, the prolific centre-forward on loan from Valencia, the main striker.

Bronze

BRONCE

For the bronze team, stopper Rubén Blanco, another of the sublime generation coming up at Celta Vigo, is included and is the youngest representative of all three teams.

Atlético right-back Javi Manquillo makes the team, with two of his Spain U20 teammates alongside him in edefence. Sevilla’s Israel Puerto scored in the recent friendly win over Paraguay and partners Jonas Ramalho of Athletic in the centre, with another La Masia graduate in Marc Muniesa at left-back.

Two of Barcelona B and Real Madrid Castilla’s main midfielders are in this team, Álex Fernández and Sergi Roberto, who despite being rivals at club level have played many times for Spain’s youth sides and have had impressive seasons respectively in the Liga Adelante. Liverpool’s supremely talented playmaker Suso makes up the midfield in the #10 role.

Surprisingly, the star of Real Madrid’s La Fabrica academy and ‘pichichi’ of the Under-19 Euro’s, Jesé Rodríguez, only makes the bronze team as a left-forward, with clubmate Raúl de Tomas (18) the striker. Making up the line-up is Betis winger Álvaro Vadillo, another in the long line of talented widemen from the 1994 generation in Spain.

There were a few perhaps surprising omissions, for example Barcelona’s fabulous young left-back Alejandro Grimaldo didn’t make the cut, although he has suffered a lot from injuries lately. The same can apply to Sevilla’s José Campaña who had an excellent tournament in the U19 Euro’s last year, and to a lesser extent Manchester City youngster Denis Suárez, although other players from that team were overlooked on a different basis. For example, Juanmi (Racing, on loan from Málaga), who has sadly regressed a lot in the last 18 months, and the very impressive Juan Bernat of Valencia were also not included.

Of course though, with the huge amount of talent coming through in Spain right now, it is always going to be difficult to make decisions like this, and there will always be quality left out. Looking at the three teams though, you can be sure that the current generation have a line of successors that have the potential to match their success and knows, maybe even emulate it. Two of the Golden XI, Isco and Muniain, have already represented La Roja at the highest level, but you can be certain they will bet the first of many of the names you see on this page.

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.

sub17italia2

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)

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.

Arsenal’s Young Spaniards Impress in NextGen

December 7th, 2012

Jon Toral

The two youngsters Arsenal signed from FC Barcelona around the time of the Cesc Fabregas transfer saga continue to show their promise with the London side’s academy teams. Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin both started for Arsenal in their NextGen Series showdown with the Juvenil A squad of Spanish side Athletic Bilbao this week.

Arsenal ran rampant in attack against the Spaniards thanks to one of their own Spanish lads. Jon Toral opened the scoring for the Young Gunners as he headed home past Bilbao and Spanish U19 keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from a corner. Bilbao tied it up and dominated much of the first half but whatever Arsenal manager Terry Burton said at half-time got the desired result. Jon Toral was again at the center of Arsenal’s success with nice combination play with Hayden before Angah provided the finish. Toral proceeded to score his second of the night with another headed goal which turned out to be the clincher.

At seventeen, the technically gifted Toral could be in line for a first team appearance this season. His compatriot and former Arsenal player Fabregas made his debut at sixteen and Toral looks like a potential replacement for the Gunner’s former star. He has featured a handful of times for the reserves already and his eye for goal and vision could be an interesting option for a team that has lacked it at times this season. The prospect of Toral playing beside, and being mentored by, Santi Cazorla has to have Arsenal fans’ excited.

Bellerin

Toral’s compatriot and teammate Hector Bellerin has a bright future at Arsenal’s right-back position. The seventeen year old signed his first professional contract with the club this past summer and the pacey right back is dangerous in attack having previously played as a winger. He has played four times with the reserves since joining Arsenal and scored when the reserves played Chelsea. Toral has called Bellerin friend “the most talented player in the youth team” high praise coming from the scintillating attacker. The youngster was in line for an early debut with the first side last season, unfortunately a serious knee injury side-lined him for eight months. He is back now and has helped lead this current Arsenal side into the next round of the NextGen Series. Look for these two players to potentially feature for the Spanish U19 side this summer.

Squads named for Spain Under-17 and Under-19 training camps

September 18th, 2012

The Spanish FA have recently named the first Under-17 and Under-19 squads of the new season, with the age limits now restricted to 1996 and 1994 respectively. The two young teams are in the early stages of their preparation for next year’s European Championships, for which qualifying starts in a few weeks, and have spent a few days each training in Las Rozas so that the manager’s can get to know the new squads.

For the Under-17′s, Santi Denía continues as manager and has chosen 23 players to have a look at for October’s matches. Six of those called up (Adama Traore, Rodrigo Tarin, Carlos Blanco, Xabi Quintilla, Juan Manuel García and Mohamed El-Quarichi) are from Barcelona’s acclaimed La Masia academy, a few of whom already have experience with the U17′s last year. Having fell at the final stage two years running now they will be looking to make it third time lucky and make the tournament, and go one better than their final defeat the last time they were involved, against England in 2010. For viewers from the UK, Manchester City striking prodigy José Ángel Pozo will be involved, with the first round of qualifiers taking place between 19-24 October. Spain’s group includes Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Poland.

Several of last year’s U17′s have now progressed to the Under-19′s too, including Alejandro Grimaldo and Salva Ruiz who were promoted a few months ago, and Sergi Samper, Sandro Ramírez, Jaime Sánchez, Rubén Blanco and Álvaro Bustos. The RFEF are still yet to name the successor to Julen Lopetegui after he took the U21 post last month, although my guess would be the return of Ginés Meléndez. Next week they’ll start training under the new boss, but as current holders will get a by for the first round of qualifiers, and so won’t be in competitive action until the Elite round next spring.

Gerard Deulofeu is the one player from the 1994 generation who doesn’t feature again, as he, like Lopetegui, was promoted to the U21′s. However, heroes of July’s European Championship triumph such as Óliver Torres, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Saúl Ñíguez, Joni, Javier Manquillo and Man City’s Denis Suárez will be present, and there are recalls for Raúl de Tomas and Francisco Varela, who debuted at this level last year. Plenty of new faces have been introduced too, most of whom have represented the U18 or U20 sides in the last year. The two squads are as follows.

Under-17′s:

Goalkeepers: Miquel Parera (Mallorca), Estanislao Marcellan (Real Sociedad)

Defenders: Rodrigo Tarin (Barcelona), Sergio Pereira (Deportivo), Antonio Marín (Almería), Juan Manuel García (Barcelona), Nico Cañizares (Juventus), Xabi Quintilla (Barcelona), Carlos Blanco (Barcelona), Javier Jiménez (Villarreal)

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

Strikers: Javi García (Villarreal), Yelko Pino (Celta Vigo), José Ángel Pozo (Manchester City), Alejandro Mula (Málaga), José Cornejo (Málaga)

Under 19′s:

Goalkeepers: Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic), Rubén Blanco (Celta Vigo)

Defenders: Javier Manquillo (Atlético), Óscar Arroyo (Real Madrid), Joni (Celta Vigo), Borja López (Sporting), Jaime Sánchez (Real Madrid), Alejandro Grimaldo (Barcelona), Salva Ruiz (Valencia), Francisco Varela (Betis)

Midfielders: Albert Miravent (Espanyol), Denis Suárez (Manchester City), Óliver Torres (Atlético Madrid), Sergi Samper (Barcelona), Álvaro Vadillo (Betis), Saúl Ñiguez (Atlético Madrid), José Rodríguez (Real Madrid), Moises Gómez (Villarreal), Pablo Iñiguez (Villarreal), Fede Vico (Córdoba), Álvaro Bustos (Sporting)

Strikers: Raúl de Tomas (Real Madrid), Sandro Ramírez (Barcelona), Iker Hernández (Real Sociedad)

Jese and Deulofeu not going anywhere

August 5th, 2012

Gines Carvajal, the agent of Spanish youngsters Jese Rodriguez and Gerard Deulofeu has said that neither of his clients will be leaving their respective teams this summer. This comes after the two had impressive displays at the U19 European Championship this summer, with Jese winning the golden boot as the tournament’s top scorer and Deulofeu was Spain’s main creative outlet, whether he was on the left or right wing.

Both players have been linked to moves abroad, with teams scrambling to get the talented stars on loan for even a season. Liverpool are especially keen on signing Gerard Deulofeu for around £7.5million, a fee that Barcelona would seriously consider. The Reds would also consider taking the youngster on loan, a more likely result with FC Barcelona not wanting to part with the young phenomenon. Jese Rodriguez has been the subject of a bid by London club Tottenham, with the Hotspurs reportedly having a £5million bid rejected by Real Madrid. Madrid have slapped a monster price tag on the teenager, wanting a club to pay his £30million buy-out clause to sign the winger.

Carvajal is confident that his two star clients will remain in Spain despite some tempting offers:

“I am very fortunate to have some very important players and I hope they reach the top, although I do wish the media would give them less ‘hype’,” he told Fichajesycracks. On Jese he added:

“He will make his mark, teams ask for him – but it is bad luck for them as Jese is happy at Real Madrid and vice-versa.”

Regarding Deulofeu, he said:
“With these players as I have said it is inevitable, but Barcelona wants to keep Gerard at all costs and will not sell.”

Suso helps start a new era at Liverpool FC

July 28th, 2012

After his impressive displays with the Spanish U19 team in Estonia, Suso joined Liverpool on the club’s North America tour. New Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is trying to implement a possession style of football in the club and the eighteen year old could play a key role in the transition. Suso already received a half of football from Rodgers in Liverpool’s friendly against AS Roma and look for the youngster to make his Premier League debut this early this season. In a recent interview with Liverpoolfc.com he has said he is looking forward to helping bring Tiki-Taka to Anfield.

“I have had my first training session with the new manager,” Suso told Liverpoolfc.com. “He has been talking to me all of the time and, being honest with you, he looks really good. The football he wants us to play is the style of play I like.

“It’s really good for me so we hope we will get better. The manager has been talking to me about the style of football he wants us to play and to use the ball as much as we can. He told me I need to work hard for the team and do my best.

“He did well with that style when he was at Swansea. This is a new look team and we will try to do the best we possibly can.

“I’m trying to work as hard as I can every day so I can be in the first team. I would love to be able to get some games in the Barclays Premier League but I know to do that I need to work hard every day and show the boss what I can do.

“I hope to get some minutes with the first team in the friendly matches out here. As I say I just want to improve in every game and every training session because we are going to face some really good teams. I just need to learn in every game.”

Oliver Torres vs U19 Greece (Final)

July 17th, 2012

Passing %: 96.63% (86/89)
Long Ball %: 33.33% (2/6)
Dribbles Completed %: 100% (2/2)
Tackles Won: 6
Chances Created: 2
Shots off Target: 3

Like he was for much of the tournament, Oli Torres was the heartbeat of the Spanish team in the final against Greece. He and Suso had great chemistry in the midfield and the two maestros played off of each other effortlessly. While he always lines up just behind the forwards, I have noticed that Torres is much more a box to box midfielder. He floats around the pitch, following the ball with a pugnacious desire to see it returned to his feet or the feet of one of his teammates. His understanding of the game is astounding for a seventeen year old and he dominated the midfield in every game this tournament, against players two years older than him and much more physically mature.

While I find that comparing youngsters to veteran stars unfair at times, the comparison of Oliver Torres to FC Barcelona’s Xavi rings truer than most. He seems to demand the ball at times, running into space to give his teammates a passing option. When he gets the ball it is pure magic, the lad’s head is on a swivel before the ball reaches his feet, looking to spot teammates and openings in the opposition’s defense. His low center of gravity allows him to turn, pivot and feint with ease in order to open up more space for himself, giving him the option of dribbling the ball forward or looking for a teammate to pass to. His eighty-nine attempted passes in the final and 97% pass completion are numbers that only a select few footballers will ever be able to achieve in their careers. Watching Oliver Torres play is an exercise in physics and geometry, and the seventeen year old finds a way to make it fun for us the viewers.

His size or lack thereof was, and will continue to be questioned. Even with the success of FC Barcelona’s dynamos there are still many in football who believe you have to be big and strong to be successful. Torres may be small, and possibly not likely to grow much more, but he plays a big game. On the ball his quickness and innate footballing intelligence put him ahead of most players his age and beyond. Off of it he is tenacious and aggressive, not afraid to commit a challenge, and willing to run the length of the field to win the ball back. His work rate off the ball is consistent with what the footballing world has come to expect and respect about FC Barcelona and Spain’s style. Oliver Torres does the simple things so well that it makes what he does on the pitch look intricate and complicated.

The only criticism I have of the youngster’s game, in the final and throughout the tournament, is his long-ball accuracy. His short, crisp passes are virtually flawless, moving the ball back and forth as if he had it on a string. When he noticed a gap or a run by one of his wingers however, his final ball was usually found wanting. This is an aspect of his game he still has to perfect, once he does, the ability to time and weight his long-balls right will make him even more a threat in the midfield.

The day after being crowned European Under 19 champions, Oliver Torres flew to Los Angeles to join Atletico Madrid for their preseason American tour. Diego Simeone will use this summer to help the youngster develop further, but has already decided to promote him to the first team for the coming season. He will feature for the B side when not utilized by Simeone but look for him to feature for Atletico Madrid in La Liga this season and continue his meteoric rise in world football.

U19 Euro Final: Spain vs Greece

July 16th, 2012

Spain’s U19 side won their sixth Under-19 title and second in as many years on Sunday, beating Greece one-nil. La Rojita answered the age old question of whether they could play their football on a cold rainy night in Tallinn, Estonia and Paco Alcácer finally received his first start of the tournament after scoring two goals and adding three assists. This meant the Jese and Deulofeu took to the wings and Liverpool youngster Suso went into the midfield trio with Oli Torres and José Campaña.

Kepa Arrizabalaga
Jonas Ramalho
Alejandro Grimaldo
Derik Osede
Joni Castro
Oliver Torres
José Campaña
Suso (Denis Suárez – 71min)
Paco Alcácer
Jese Rodriguez (Juan Bernat – 90min)
Gerard Deulofeu (Juanmi – 84min)

Spain dominated the match, enjoying the lion’s share of possession and the lineup worked wonders. Jese and Deulofeu were brilliant as the wingers, both working hard and interchanging on the wings, making it difficult for the Greek defenders. Suso, Campaña and Torres were dynamic in the midfield, Suso and Torres playing a creative role with Campaña adding defensive insurance behind them. La Rojita had brilliant chances with eight shots on target but the Greek goalkeeper Sokratis Dioudis was sharp and made some magnificent stops. He tipped José Campaña’s thunderbolt strike off the crossbar and saved Grimaldo’s follow up attempt. Jese and Deulofeu continued taking defenders on one-on-one with the latter having a shot cleared off the line.

The rain in Tallinn made the surface slick and Spain’s game turned more direct in the second half. Greece continued to defend their goal like the Spartans at Thermopylae and even managed a few half-chances at the other end, finding ways through a shaky Spanish defense. Spain’s breakthrough came at the eightieth minute when Deulofeu took the ball inside, drawing defenders to him before slipping Jese through on goal for the Real Madrid man to slot it home, leading Spain to another footballing championship.

Man of the Match: Jese Rodriguez

Passing %: 93.75% (15/16)
Dribbles Completed %: 57.14% (4/7)
Fouls Committed: 3
Tackles Won: 2
Chances Created: 3
Shots on Target: 5
Shots off Target: 1
Yellow Card
Goal

The Real Madrid man lived up to the hype this tournament, finishing as the Golden Boot winner with five goals in as many games. For me, it was the way he scored those goals that was impressive, showing an equal measure of lethal finishing, aggression and silky skills that make him one dangerous forward. Many strikers would have sulked when put out on the wing in the place of another striker, Paco, but Jese deserves credit after putting in one heck of a shift for his country. His work ethic was very impressive and he may have been the most dangerous he had looked all tournament, hitting five shots on goal, creating three chances for his teammates, and scoring the winning goal. The Canary Islander was gracious in victory in his post tournament interview with UEFA.com:

“I would like to congratulate Greece for the part they played,” he said. “They have a great squad that contains many fine players and they deserved to be here tonight. Our coach let us know afterwards that we were worthy winners and that we had to enjoy our triumph as much as possible.”

“If it weren’t for the hard work of the team, however, I would never have had the opportunity to do this. My team-mates are great guys and they supported me throughout the tournament, just as I did them. As a team, we have been very much together from the outset.”

Grimaldo vs U19 France

July 13th, 2012

Passing %: 93.18% (41/44)
Long Ball %: 75% (3/4)
Dribbles Completed %: 25% (1/4)
Fouls Committed: 1
Fouls Suffered: 1
Tackles Won: 3
Chances Created: 3
Clearances: 3
Yellow Card
Assist

Alejandro Grimaldo continued his brilliant play for Spain down the left flank against France. The sixteen year old has been one of Spain’s best players throughout this tournament, providing great attacking moves while not compromising his defensive responsibilities. His positioning and football instincts have been immaculate in Estonia, and as the second youngest player on the team (after Valencia’s left-back Salva Ruiz), Grimaldo has scary potential.

At 5ft 9in, Grimaldo was at a major size disadvantage against France on Thursday and his speed which has been such a factor for Spain was less effective than usual. He made up for this with hard work and aggression, tracking back and making tackles. He was carded for a poorly timed challenge just outside the penalty box during France’s early pressing but played out the rest of the match flawlessly. He was one of Spain’s best players in the first half where Spain struggled at times. He always provides an outlet pass for his teammates, and is involved in the play more than most fullbacks. The Barcelona starlet constantly makes lung-bursting runs, overlapping Deulofeu which often opens up more space for the enigmatic winger.

Grimaldo’s stamina came into play and he became more and more of a factor as the game drew on. It was his run and cross that set up Spain’s second goal, taking the lead through a Paco Alcácer finish. Grimaldo was subbed at the eighty-ninth minute, the first time in the tournament that he had been substituted. Barcelona has another tremendous talent coming through the ranks in a position that is harder to come by. Another few years in La Masia and with Barca B and Grimaldo will be a bona fide star in world football.

Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.