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Thursday 20 February 2020

FIFA U-17 World Cup: Spain outplay Iran 3-1 to reach semi-finals

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 here on Sunday.

Spain, one of the pre-tournament favourites, completely dominated the quarterfinal 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 October 25.

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 today 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.

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 spell.

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.

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