European Under-21 Championships final: Spanish starlets poised to take up the mantle
Nation's global dominance looks assured for years to come
Tuesday 18 June 2013
While the Spain senior team set about trying to add the Confederations Cup to their current world and European crowns, the Under-21 side are, starting this afternoon, trying to become champions again. They face Italy in Jerusalem hoping to retain their European Under-21 title. They have, naturally enough, been the best team in the tournament so far and they have some remarkably gifted players who we might be lucky enough to see more of in the future:
Isco – The new Iniesta
The best young player in Europe, arguably, but certainly the best at this tournament. Isco, who plays for Malaga, has big offers on the table from Manchester City and Real Madrid and has shown precisely why with some thrilling displays. He has the touch and vision expected of a Spanish creative midfielder but also a swaggering flashiness. Scored a wonderful chip against Netherlands in the group stage and then, against Norway in the semi-final, a top-corner toe-poke after swerving through three defenders.
Thiago Alcantara – La Roja's boy from Brazil
He is the son of Brazilian World Cup-winner Mazinho. The midfielder and captain Thiago tries to combine his Brazilian flair with the brisk passing game he was taught in the academy at Barcelona. Still an occasional rather than regular midfielder there, his very obvious talent has attracted the attention of Manchester United.
Asier Illarramendi – Xabi Alonso's rightful heir?
The comparisons with Xabi Alonso are obvious: a Basque midfielder at Real Sociedad with a wonderful passing range and control of the game. Illarramendi sets the tempo for this Spain side, taking the ball from the defence and moving it forward, while he also – like Alonso – has a dangerous shot from distance. An important part of Real Sociedad's fourth-placed finish last season, he should be playing in the Champions League next year.
Alvaro Morata – The goal poacher extraordinaire
Even in a team which passes the ball this well, there is still a value to being able to put the ball in a net and Alvaro Morata – with four goals – has done precisely that so far. Spain have generally preferred Benfica's Rodrigo up front, but Morata of Real Madrid has repeatedly shown that he can make an impact from the pinch, with his nose for goal and ruthless finishing.
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