The Spain youngsters proving another dynasty could be on the horizon

By Sports Desk July 01, 2022

Spain's triumph at Euro 2012 proved to be the final flourish for one of the greatest ever international sides, with La Roja winning three consecutive international tournaments.

Prior to victory in Euro 2008, Spain had not won an international competition since 1964 and had been perennial underachievers. 

But that swiftly changed with the Euros win followed up by World Cup success in South Africa in 2010 before the successful defence of their continental crown.

The triumph in 2012 was the end of an era, however, with Spain eliminated in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup, bowing out at in the last 16 at Euro 2016 and then losing to hosts Russia on penalties at the 2018 World Cup.

However, a turn in fortunes was shown at Euro 2020, played in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, when Spain reached the semi-finals of the competition, narrowly losing to eventual champions Italy.

Now, all eyes are focused on Qatar this year. With Spain in a tough group alongside Germany, Japan and Costa Rica, a new dawn of young talents will be decisive to the hopes of the nation.
 

Pedri

Pedri's international debut came in Spain's second World Cup qualifying match against Georgia and he soon established himself as a core part of the squad for Euro 2020, where he played all but a single minute and was named Young Player of the Tournament.

In the semi-final against Italy, Pedri shone as he completed 65 of 67 passing attempts and overall at the tournament, he failed to complete just 40 of 461 attempts, resulting in a passing accuracy of 91 per cent.

Understandably, this has led to the general consensus that Pedri is the heir apparent to Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who were vital for Spain's glory years a decade ago, and under the stewardship of the former at Barcelona, expectations are high.

Still a teenager and only turning 20 in the days after what is expected to be his World Cup debut against Costa Rica on November 23, his calm and composed demeanour will help to keep Spain ticking through midfield in Qatar.

Gavi

The other half of Barcelona's exciting midfield duo, Gavi too has settled into Spain's international fold since his debut appearance in the semi-finals of the Nations League against Italy – where he became the youngest-ever player to represent Spain's senior squad.

A further record would tumble last month in the Nations League clash against the Czech Republic, where he became his country's youngest-ever scorer, and he has accumulated 10 appearances for his national side in less than a year.

Gavi's creativity has proven to be a stellar asset for his national side and his movement across the field, shown by his touches during his international career, is extremely difficult to track – and noticeably touches inside the box are few and far between.

Just 14 of 321 touches have come inside the 18-yard box, with his work tending to orientate from a deeper role. That is reflected by his passes – with just eight passing attempts inside the box and the remaining 234 coming outside.

Ansu Fati

Earning an international debut in September 2020 against Germany, then scoring a few days later against Ukraine, Ansu Fati notched up four caps for Spain before the close of that year but injury problems derailed his progress for club and country.

A nine-month absence began in November 2020, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season, and a further injury setback occurred in January this year which saw him miss three months of the campaign before his return in May.

While his international football has been limited ahead of the World Cup, expectations remain high at Barcelona where he has netted 19 goals during his career – with 15 of those strikes coming from inside the box.

That results in a significant asset for Spain, as Pedri and Gavi often provide the sort of passes that Fati thrives on.

Fati could prove particularly important given La Roja are limited with central options in the attacking third.

Eric Garcia

While not commanding as many headlines as other young talents within the Spain squad, Eric Garcia's role in the years ahead is vital given the ageing defensive line La Roja have at their disposal.

In the most recent call-ups in June, Garcia was the only defender under the age of 25 and one of only three beneath 30, alongside Pau Torres and Diego Llorente, which shows a clear changing of the guard lying ahead.

Garcia is likely to be one of the first names on Spain's teamsheet in the heart of defence, with 17 caps since making his international debut in 2020 and having started five of Spain's World Cup qualifying matches.

In true Spain style, one of his greatest assets is his ability on the ball and he showcased that last month in Spain's 2-0 Nations League against the Czech Republic, where Garcia completed 110 of 115 pass attempts.

Related items

  • Diogo Dalot admits Man Utd players must accept responsibility for shortcomings Diogo Dalot admits Man Utd players must accept responsibility for shortcomings

    Diogo Dalot admits Manchester United’s players cannot shirk responsibility for their shortcomings after an underwhelming second season under Erik ten Hag continued with Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Bournemouth.

    United twice trailed at the Vitality Stadium and were fortunate to escape with a point following a poor first half in which the impressive hosts wasted a series of chances.

    While Bruno Fernandes’ double prevented defeat in Dorset, Ten Hag’s seventh-placed side face an uphill task to secure European qualification and also avoid the club’s worst Premier League finish.

    Defender Dalot believes battling back on the south coast was an encouraging sign but concedes the team have significant room for improvement going into their final six top-flight fixtures.

    “The big positive is we fought always for the result,” the Portuguese told United’s website.

    “That hunger of trying to fight until the end is something we have been showing this season.

    “It’s been a positive thing, in my opinion, although we have a lot of things we should improve, as a team, as individuals.

    “There are some things we obviously need to take responsibility (for), we cannot hide from it.

    “The standards are always high at this club so we have to be really, really accountable for these types of mistakes that we are making as a team that we cannot (make) if we want to fight for the big trophies.”

    United, who have never finished below seventh position in the Premier League era, are 10 points adrift of the Champions League positions following a fourth league outing without a win.

    Dominic Solanke and Justin Kluivert capitalised on sloppy defending to score for the Cherries but Fernandes’ volleyed equaliser ensured the visitors were only a goal behind at the break.

    United’s captain converted a 65th-minute spot-kick in a more even second period to again level before his side breathed a sigh of relief when Bournemouth were denied an added-time penalty by VAR when Willy Kambwala’s foul on Ryan Christie was adjudged to have been outside the box.

    United next weekend face a Wembley FA Cup semi-final against Championship club Coventry before returning to top-flight action at home to bottom side Sheffield United on April 24.

    “We are already focusing on a big opportunity for us to be again in the FA Cup final and it’s a massive competition we want to win,” said Dalot, who was an unused substitute in the 2-1 loss to Manchester City in last year’s final.

    “We know the feeling of being there, now we want the feeling of being there again and winning it. Next week we are going to have a huge opportunity to be there again.”

    Bournemouth were denied a first league double over the 20-time English champions on the back of December’s thumping 3-0 victory at Old Trafford.

    Striker Solanke became the Cherries’ record scorer in a single Premier League season with his 17th strike this term, moving clear of former team-mate Joshua King’s tally in the 2016-17 campaign.

    “For the last few games I wanted to get that next goal,” he told Bournemouth’s website.

    “It’s a great achievement and I’m over the moon with that record. Hopefully I can get a few more towards the end of the season.

    “Sorry Kingy about that – records are there to be broken!”

    Speaking about the late VAR drama, Solanke added: “I only managed to see it back on the big screen in the stadium and it looked like it was on the line. It definitely could have been a penalty.

    “I’m a bit gutted not to get the win.”

  • Eddie Howe grateful to Newcastle hierarchy for support through tough spell Eddie Howe grateful to Newcastle hierarchy for support through tough spell

    Eddie Howe has thanked the Newcastle hierarchy for backing him in his hour of need after emerging from a dark winter.

    The Magpies romped to a 4-0 Premier League victory over top-four candidates Tottenham at St James’ Park on Saturday to boost their own hopes of European qualification despite missing 11 players through injury or suspension, six of whom could be conceivably named in his strongest starting line-up.

    It was their third win in four games since the international break, a run in stark contrast to a sequence of eight defeats in 10 outings in all competitions around the turn of the year, during which the club’s Saudi-backed owners remained steadfast despite the first murmurings of disquiet around their 46-year-old head coach.

    Howe said: “I always say the most important thing for me is not during the good times, but the difficult moments which will inevitably be there.

    “There will always be negative and difficult moments and it’s the support you get then that is the defining factor.

    “You need stability, calmness, level heads and to be allowed to focus on your work. The people behind the scenes have done all of that for me.”

    Howe, his staff and his players have done much the same in the face of an injury list which has remained stubbornly lengthy throughout a challenging campaign.

    On Saturday, they started with their back-up goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, winger Jacob Murphy at right-back, third-choice right-back Emil Krafth and left-back Dan Burn playing as two of three central defenders and left-sided frontman Anthony Gordon operating on the right.

    But it was the way in which the players implemented Howe’s game-plan to the letter which won the day as they lured Spurs into their trap by allowing them possession and then hitting them with devastating counter-punches.

    Alexander Isak and Anthony Gordon punished two errors from defender Micky van de Ven inside as many first-half minutes to set the ball rolling, and the imperious Sweden international ran away from his Netherlands counterpart after the break to make it 3-0 before Fabian Schar completed the job at the death with a bullet header.

    With six games to go, Newcastle could yet drag themselves to within three points of last season’s tally of 71 – and they will have key midfielder Bruno Guimaraes available to aid their cause after he safely negotiated an 11th outing on nine bookings – although Howe is refusing to look too far ahead.

    He said: “We’ve got a long way to go to get there. Six games to go and we’ll give our best to try to win every one.”

    Opposite number Ange Postecoglou headed back south chastened, but ready to come out fighting once again.

    He said: “There’s no point sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. There’s another game in two weeks. We’ve just got to get ready for that.

    “It’s not the first time it’s happened to us and it won’t be the last. It’s part of our growth. Sometimes that growth is painful. That’s part of it and you’ve just got to embrace it, use it and get ready for the next challenge.”

  • Mateo Kovacic believes Premier League title race will come down to nerves Mateo Kovacic believes Premier League title race will come down to nerves

    Manchester City midfielder Mateo Kovacic admits the title run-in will be a test of nerve.

    The champions kept the pressure on rivals Arsenal and Liverpool at the Premier League summit with an emphatic 5-1 win over relegation-threatened Luton on Saturday.

    City now have just six games remaining of what has been an enthralling title race.

    Kovacic, who scored City’s second goal in a commanding display at the Etihad Stadium, said: “It’s amazing, it’s entertaining. Three amazing teams doing great.

    “It will be tough until the end and let’s see who will have the strongest nerves until the end.

    “It was important to keep the pressure on them but we are focused on ourselves, to win our games and then in the end we’ll see what happens.”

    City dominated in all departments against the Hatters but they benefited from a huge slice of luck to take the lead after just two minutes.

    Erling Haaland’s acrobatic volley was heading well wide until catching Daiki Hashioka in the face and deflecting into the net for a highly unfortunate own goal.

    Perhaps with next Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Real Madrid in mind, City then played at a slow tempo and it was not until the 64th minute when Kovacic doubled the lead with a thunderous strike.

    Haaland then added a penalty and the hosts finished strongly with further goals from Jeremy Doku and Josko Gvardiol after Ross Barkley had grabbed a consolation.

    “We kept going, doing our job and in the end scoring five goals,” said Kovacic. “It could have been even more but we are happy with the three points. We have to keep going now.

    “We approach every game focused, to be 100 per cent and do our best. I think this game was as important as Wednesday. We need to keep the same focus and try to win.”

    Despite seeing his side outplayed and still rooted in the bottom three, Luton manager Rob Edwards was not downhearted and remained confident of survival.

    Edwards said: “This game was never going to derail us, whatever happened.

    “The supporters have been incredible all season long, home and away. They are all behind the players and me and that is really special. It gives me belief.

    “The players and the staff give me that belief as well and we know we are capable of winning the next five games. I’m not saying we’re going to win them all but we feel we can win enough games.

    “We have got three home games and I think it is difficult for any team to come to Kenilworth Road. We are up for this challenge.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.