Favourites Spain up against determined Iran
Kochi, Oct 21 (PTI) European champions Spain are the overwhelming favourites as they brace up to play rank outsider Iran in their quarterfinal match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup here tomorrow.
Going by form and pedigree, the three-time runners-up have their nose ahead, but the Asian surprise package has show tremendous grit and purpose on its way to the last eight stage in the ongoing edition.
Spain will be brimming with confidence after prevailing over another European heavyweight France, the dazzling array of talents giving coach Satiago Denia plenty of options.
Denia rates captain Abel Ruiz highly, and the La Masia product reposed his coach's faith with a fine outing against France.
While the likes of Ferran Torres, Sergio Gomez and Antonio Blanco are tasked with creating opportunities, centre forward Ruiz is normally expected to do the rest.
Ruiz has already become the highest scorer for Spain at the under-17 level with 21 goals.
There is also Juan Miranda, also a Barcelona youth player, who will be lurking in and around the attacking third. Miranda had scored the equaliser against France after Ruiz did the spadework.
The Spanish team wears a very strong and settled look, and the come-from-behind win that knocked out Les Bleuets from the tournament, will only add to their confidence.
The Euro U-17 champions started the tournament on the wrong note, losing to Brazil after taking the lead, but restored their campaign with wins over over Niger and DPR Korea to comfortably make the knockouts.
Their biggest test was France in the Round of 16, and Spain passed it with flying colours.
Spain, however, know they will be up against a determined opponent at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
The 2016 AFC U-16 Championships runners-up grabbed eyeballs with their stunning 4-0 drubbing of pre-tournament favourites Germany, and they have not looked back since.
This is the first time Iran have progressed this far, and they will be eager to continue this journey.
With four wins from four matches, scoring 12 goals while conceding just two, Iran have marched in style to the quarter-finals, defeating Mexico 2-1 in their Round of 16 encounter in Goa.
Before this edition of the event, Iran reached the pre- quarters once in three appearances.
While they did not quite dominate in terms of possession, Iran capitalised whenever presented with an opportunity.
Spain: Alvaro Fernandez, Mateu Jaume, Juan Miranda, Hugo Guillamon, Victor Chust, Antonio Blanco, Ferran Torres, Mohamed Moukhliss, Abel Ruiz, Sergio Gomez, Nacho Diaz, Pedro Ruiz. Marc Vidal, Alvaro Garcia, Eric Garcia, Diego Pampin, Jose Lara, Cesar Gelabert, Carlos Beitia, Victor Perea, Alfonso Pastor
Iran: Gholam Zadeh Gomari, Satavi, Jalali, Esmaeil Zadeh, Shahkola, Nasiri, Shariati Khameneh, Hosseinzadeh Tazehgheshlagh, Sharifi, Sayyad Manesh Shiadeh, Ghobeishavi, Delfi, Ashayer, Janipour, Davaran, Kooshki, Namdari DEhghadi, Ghaderi, Karimi Lishter, Sardari Amidabadi, Khaghani and Khoda Moradi.
Match starts at 1700 hrs IST