Kochi: European champions Spain produced a quality exhibition of tiki-taka as they decimated Iran 3-1 to reach the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Spain, one of the pre-tournament favourites, completely dominated the quarter-final match as their one-touch passing game proved to be too good for the Asian giants, who were completely outplayed on the day.
Captain Abel Ruiz gave Spain the lead in the 13th minute before Sergio Gomez (60th) and Ferran Torres (67th) added a goal each.
For Iran, Saeid Karimi pulled one back in the 69th minute at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium. Spain, seeking their maiden title, now meet African champions Mali in Navi Mumbai in the second semi-finals on 25 October.
This will be Spain's sixth appearance in the semi-finals in ninth attempt. The La Rojita were runners-up in 1991, 2003 and 2007 and finished third in 1997 and 2009.
Spain were the overwhelmingly dominant side on Sunday with nearly 70 percent possession. They had seven shots on target while Iran barely had any clear chance except for one in the closing stages of the match.
But for some fine saves by their goalkeeper Ali Gholam Zadeh, Iran would have lost by a bigger margin. Zadeh was busy all day as Spain made waves of attacks through their fast-paced passing football.
Valencia youth team winger Ferran Torres, who has been on the radar of Barcelona and Real Madrid, created a lot of problems for Iran throughout the match with his speedy runs and crosses from the right flank.
It was a completely different and unusually defensive Iran as they did not look like a side, who had not lost any match before Sunday.
They sorely missed suspended striker Younes Delfi who had scored twice in Iran shock upset of formidable Germany in the group stage.
Spain, who had several players from the world famous academies of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, would build their attacks through their flowing passing and the Iranians could not even touch the ball for long spells.
One such spell resulted to the first goal, which came after 26 uninterrupted touches by the Spaniards from which captain Ruiz scored.
The first Spain chance came in the 11th minute but Mateu Morey's right footed shot from outside the box just missed the near post.
Two minutes later, Spain took the lead through Ruiz who scored his fourth goal of the tournament. The goal came after 26 passes were completed by Spanish players before Ferran Torres got the possession of the ball.
Torres got the better of his marker in the right flank and sent a long cross for Sergio Gomez who, in turn, gave a square pass to Ruiz at the center of the Iran box.
Barcelona youth team striker Ruiz's first shot hit a defender built from the rebound he made no mistake with his right footer finding the left side of the Iran net with a diving goalkeeper unable to reach the ball.
This was Ruiz's 24th goal in 28th appearances for the Spain U-17 side. He is currently on the the radar of top English Premier League sides.
Spain had two fine chances to increase the lead but Iran goalkeeper Ali Gholam Zadeh kept the scoreline 1-0 with two fine saves, one in the 19th minute and then in the 34th.
A flowing start to the second half saw Spain push for a second goal. At the hour mark, another Barcelona youth team player Sergio Gomez took the game out of Iran's reach with a spectacular strike from well outside the box that hit the underside of the crossbar and went into the net.
Iran pressed forward in search of a goal and that left spaces behind for Spain to make further inroads. In one such flowing move, Mohamad Moukhliss delivered an inch-perfect low cross from the right which Torres simply tapped in to make it 3-0 in the 67th minute.
Iran did get their goal two minutes later when a long ball from defence met the head of Allahyar Sayyad whose diagonal flick found Saeid Karimi who nodded home.
The game was attended by a capacity 29,000 spectators – highest at the venue for any match.
Published Date: Oct 22, 2017 09:08 pm | Updated Date: Oct 22, 2017 09:08 pm