FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017: A look back at Spain's Road to the Final in Kolkata
With the best and the brightest from the academies of Real Madrid and Barcelona in the national side, it's hardly a surprise that Spain have reached the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
With Europe's biggest clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona supplying players to the national team, it is no surprise that Spain are one win away from being crowned champions, just months after winning the European Championships. Having beaten the Young Lions in the final of the Euro, the Spaniards have a psychological advantage over their opponents.
Spain began their title challenge with a 2-1 loss to title favourites Brazil in the lung-opener. Even though they took an early lead, La Rojita were clearly the inferior side as Brazil successfully managed to disrupt Spain's passing tempo and stage a comeback victory. Santiago Denia's young bunch bounced back in style in their next match against Niger with skipper Abel Ruiz's brace giving them a 4-0 victory. In their final group match, Spain's tiki-taka style was in full flow as they enjoyed a 71 percent ball possession and managed 25 attempts on goal while restricting Korea DPR to just five.
The Round of 16 fixture saw Spain take on European rivals France. A 90th-minute penalty from Ruiz helped the European Champions scrape through to the quarter-final with a 2-1 victory. Iran handed a shock 4-0 defeat to Germany with their counter-attacking football and the Asian dark horses were expected to take the fight to Spain in the quarter-final. Spain were on the top of their game and rarely allowed Iran to play to their strengths. Goals from the Spanish front three of Ruiz, Ferran Torres and Sergio Gomez helped La Rojita reach the semi-final.
Last edition's runners-up Mali were Spain's opponents in the semi-final. Target man Ruiz had given Spain a two-goal advantage at halftime but at the hour mark, Mali were robbed off a goal in circumstances reminiscent of Frank Lampard's disallowed goal against Germany in the 2010 World Cup. However, Spain went on to extend their lead ten minutes later and even though Mali pulled a goal back, Spain held on to a 3-1 victory and reach the final.
Champions League: Pep Guardiola says Manchester City will use pain of loss to Chelsea in final as motivation
The Premier League champions start their campaign against Bundesliga side RB Leipzig on Wednesday, less than four months after their painful 1-0 defeat to Chelsea.
Verona's Eusebio Di Francesco and Cagliari's Leonardo Semplici have been shown the door after poor starts to the 2021-22 season, the latter winless after three games.
Klopp's Reds will face seven-time European champions AC Milan, Spanish league title holders Atletico Madrid and 2004 Champions League winners Porto in a daunting Group B.