KOCHI: There is a political storm jolting the nation of Spain at the moment. But thousands of miles from the Iberian peninsula, a group of youngsters are united and unperturbed by disturbances as they look to carry home the ultimate prize. There are four youngsters from Barcelona’s La Masia academy in the Spain squad, while five are from their bitter rivals Real Madrid.
Defender Eric Garcia Martet is now based in England at Manchester City under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola.
“Everyone in the team wants to win the World Cup and they are very excited. They want to continue with the work we did in Croatia at the UEFA European U-17 Championship earlier this year,” said coach Santiago Denia.
A former Atletico Madrid player, Denia himself has been capped at the U-18, U-21, U-23 and senior levels by Spain and knows the team has to improve. Spain won their ninth U-17 Euro title in Croatia, but are yet to get their hands on this trophy, finishing runners-up thrice.
Denia said, “There are still plenty of areas we have to work on in order to win this championship. I think we have to improve defensively as well as tactically.”
They are weakened by the injury to Alejandro Orallana, who started all but one match in their victorious Euro campaign.
“Alejandro hasn’t travelled with the squad. But a country like Spain has so many good players. So, we can replace him,” the coach said.
All eyes will be on Barca wonderkid Abel Ruiz, who is the highest ever goalscorer for Spain U-17s. “Abel is a team player and knows very well that he cannot win this championship without other members of the squad,” Denia added.