Spain head into the FIFA U-20 World Cup held in Turkey as genuine favourites, with the likes of Colombia, Chile, France and Mexico set to pose the greatest threat to Spanish aspirations of success. The French perhaps pose the main threat, offering up physical contests in the past and boasting a squad with talent that can match that of Spain’s. As for success, a man who knows all about that is Julen Lopetegui, who immediately after achieving victory in Israel with the Under-21s, flew to Turkey to take charge of this group. Lopetegui’s reputation is growing, with Marca even declaring him in sight of Vicente Del Bosque’s job when the current Spain Coach steps down.
For now, though, Lopetegui looks to do what he couldn’t last time, when he was unable to win this very tournament in 2011. It was a massive disappointment for many in Spain, on par with the failure to achieve at the 2012 Olympics. Lopetegui is blessed with an outstanding group though, with three players particularly catching the eye and will be vital should Spain progress. Gerard Deulofeu of Barcelona, Jese Rodriguez of Real Madrid and Oliver Torres the latest to spring from Atletico Madrid’s cantera – they are the magic trio, of which all eyes will be fixed upon.
Deulofeu and Jese are without doubt the entertainers of the team, with the former managing 18 goals and seven assists while the latter managed 22 goals and 12 assists last season in the Segunda Division - remarkable figures from a duo that surely will battle it out for many years to come given their respective club sides. Both are very different in style, but the conclusion of their game is the same - devastating and exciting.
Deulofeu is the spark of this side, driving in from all angles of the frontline with his speed, rapid change of direction and close control. He possesses that confidence and belief in his play that could make him a true star.
Jese, meanwhile, has a game based more on power and physique, as he blusters past opponents with his movement and lethal play inside the penalty area. There have been comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo, and it’s no surprise given the build of Jese, who towers over many of the senior players he faces each week. Last season’s smashing of a club record held by Real Madrid legend Emilio Butragueno showed his quality, and why he’s of the belief first team opportunities are warranted. Both form a direct part of Spain’s play, aiming to conclude the diligent work done in midfield areas by a series of gifted players.
One of these, and the conductor of this team, is Oliver Torres. There has been an attempt by Diego Simeone to cool the temperature that rises every time Torres plays at Atleti, and while he’s done an excellent job, the player is threatening to explode already. Brief cameos have emphasised the sheer grace and class that he possesses. With his subtle movement, astute reading of the game and ability to dictate from deep, Torres is another glorious midfield product off Spain’s production line. How he distributes the ball, and seeks out the running of Jese and Deulofeu is a vital factor in this Spanish system.
The three are not alone however, as various other players bring their own arrangement of attributes to the team. Liverpool’s Suso has worked from a wide right position and attacking midfield with the team, drifting between the lines effortlessly as he links play together. Paco Alcacer will be out to replicate the exploits of Alvaro Morata too, as he leads the Spanish forward line with his robust, classic strike play. Javi Manquillo is another Atleti cantera product to watch too, as he can get the pulses racing with his aggressive, high tempo full-back play on the right. His brief appearances at club level have been nothing less than highly impressive. It’s time for the Under-20s to make sure the sun still shines on Spanish football this summer.