William Sinsky has a look at the players that stood out during the U17 World Cup quarterfinal that finished Spain 3-1 Iran.
At the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi, India, two national teams met under contrasting expectations. Iran, who had won every prior match in the tournament, including an impressive 4-0 win against Germany, reached their first quarterfinal in any World Cup in team history. Unfortunately, they would be without their best player, Younes Delfi, due to yellow card accumulation. Spain on the other hand have only gotten better since the first game, defeating France 2-1 in the round of 16. La Rojita had surprisingly missed the last three editions of the U-17 World Cup.
Without Delfi, Iran went into the match with a very cautious game plan, which ultimately cost them any chance of winning. Spain came out with comfortable possession and held it for most of the 90 minutes, penetrating Iran’s midfield and defense with through balls via the back four when the opportunity presented itself.
The first goal came early, when Valencia winger Ferran Torres launched a cross into the box that fell to Sergio Gomez, who passed it to an open Abel Ruiz at the top of the six-yard box, who then hit a rebound into the bottom left. As stated, Spain was extremely calm and composed with the ball throughout, as Iran provided very little if any pressure. The second Spanish goal was again set up by Torres, this time finished by Gomez. A third goal, off a counter attack led by Mohamed Agmir, was cancelled out by a surprise Iran goal two minutes later, but the damage was done. Spain would move on to the semifinals for the sixth time in U-17 team history.
Five players stood out with strong performances from this match:
Abel Ruiz had three goals in the tournament heading into this match. He holds the record for most appearances and goals in Spain U-17 history. He is an imposing figure in the middle of the attacking third, using his strength and positioning to receive the ball with space to shoot. Despite his size, his skill on the ball is smooth with a good first touch.
Ruiz made good runs and movements throughout the match, dictating the tempo at which Spain attacked. Allowed to move horizontally across Iran’s back line, he took advantage of the space between the two center backs. While he missed a sitter or two towards the end, Abel Ruiz certainly threatened Iran’s goal enough to warrant a place on this list.
Arguably the best player on the pitch, Ferran Torres commanded the right side of the attacking half. He saw a lot of the ball in the first half and was very aggressive with it, not afraid to take on Iran’s left back. Spain manager, Santi, told his players to play quickly and with speed, something that, while Spain was calm in possession, Torres excelled at. His passing was smooth and with purpose. Iran’s hesitancy to press Spain allowed for short, one-touch passing at times, often led by Torres. He also set up most of Spain’s attacks.
While passing and dribbling are clearly Torres’ specialties, he proved he was more than just a prototypical winger. On Spain’s third goal, Agmir and midfielder Cesar drove down the right side, an Iran defender in tow. Torres was running down the left half-space, with another defender between him and Agmir. When they reached the top of the 18-yard box, Torres made a simple, brilliant move, cutting behind his defender and accelerating in between him and Agmir, giving Agmir a target for his ground ball cross, which Torres slotted past the keeper. Reportedly sought after by Real Madrid and Barcelona, it’s clear Ferran Torres is a special player.
In the middle of the pitch, Sergio Gomez controlled the ball for much of Spain’s possession in Iran’s attacking half. He is a creative midfielder, holding the ball well then passing off to a teammate to set up chances. His goal was one to remember, a rocket from about 25 yards out blasted into the top right corner. One of the younger players in Spain’s U-17 squad, Sergio Gomez put in a superb shift.
Despite Iran’s lack of production, there were a couple players who had solid performances. Striker Allahyar Sayyad led the Nojavanan attack, and he seemed to be the only Iranian getting forward and pressing. Unfortunately his frustration and impatience got the best of him often, with opportunities often ending in either offside calls or shots in desperation. He had some redemption in the 69’ however, when a long ball into Spain’s box was headed well enough by Sayyad to drop to his teammate Karimi who scored Iran’s only goal.
The loss of Delfi was a big blow for Iran, who, without Delfi’s creativity and free kick skills, couldn’t create many threats to Spain’s defense.
Taha Shariati was the other Iranian player who made an impact. The center back played with aggressiveness, willing to run up and challenge opponents. His effort was admirable, at times completing smart sliding tackles and clearances. While Iran was outmatched, their tournament run was nonetheless inspiring, and with the senior side having qualified for the 2018 World Cup, the future looks bright for the football-obsessed nation.
- Tactical Analysis: Croatia 2-2 Russia | Modric and Rakitic make the difference - July 10, 2018
- U17 World Cup 2017: Team of the Tournament - November 1, 2017
- U17 World Cup 2017 Tactical Player Report: Spain 3-1 Iran - October 28, 2017