Tuesday evening at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, Spain captured it’s fourth UEFA U-21 Tournament title and second consecutive by beating Italy 4-2, with a hat-trick from Thiago Alcantara. Aside from once again capturing another continental and or international title either at the senior or youth level, what this particularly Spain team showed is that the future is bright.
‘La Rojita’ won each of the five games they played in the tournament and ended up outscoring their opponents 12 goals in favor and only surrendering two against. This team exhibited the precision passing and ability to dominate possession that has come to characterize the play of the senior national team in recent times.
What this U-21 group showed and demonstrated was that in comparison to the current senior side, a senior team in a couple of years time will play with more speed and direct play as compared to the current squad who strikes more through methodical way of playing. The ability to be able to play faster and more direct will only add another element to what his a strong and nearly unbeatable team at the senior level.
When a has a successful run like the one that Spain has had here since 2008, the general expectation is that as the core players start to retire from national team duty, there will be a dip in performance and quality. Well the team that just won the UEFA U-21 Tournament showed that this will not be the case.
In this squad, you had players like Thiago Alcantara, Isco and Iker Muniain who have already been called into the senior national team and played games for the senior national team. In addition, goalkeeper David De Gea has yet to get any serious looks for the senior national team given the current crop of players ahead of him in that position. That said, he will be the keeper of the future given he is only 21 years old.
Aside from those who have already played for the senior national team, there are a good number who can and will probably play for the team in the near future. These include players like Koke, Inigo Martinez, Daniel Carvajal, Cristian Tello and Marc Bartra who are legitimate candidates to one day be regulars on the senior national team.
While the eventual downfall of many successful national team eras is a result of newer players also not knowing how it feels like to win for the national team, this will not for Spain. In addition to those already on the senior squad, this team is showing that it understands that when it puts on that jersey there is a certain expectation it must meet and that is win every tournament it plays. Having won now, it will be able to deal take this experience to the next level.
One of the best things about watching these youth tournaments is the excitement of what is to come once a current crop of players retire from national team play. In the case of Spain, we saw a team that showed the world of soccer, the winning machine that is Spain will not slow down any time soon as it will only keep on rolling with players ready to continue the legacy.