Spain aims for U20 world title in tiki-taka style
Spain's drubbing by Brazil in the Confederations Cup final has given its youth team additional motivation to take home the Under-20 World Cup.
Coach Julen Lopetegui said on Monday his team is ready to go all the way and win the title for a second time after 1999.
Despite the defeat, ''our first team is the best example for us. Their composure, their attitude, we get a lot of energy every time we watch them,'' Lopetegui said.
After becoming the only team to win all three group matches, Spain will continue its quest for the world title on Tuesday against Mexico in the most appealing tie of the first knockout round.
Also, France will take on host Turkey, Uruguay plays Nigeria and Greece faces Uzbekistan.
Spain advanced from what was arguably the toughest group of all six with remarkable ease. It routed the United States 4-1, beat 2009 champion Ghana 1-0, and saw off France 2-1.
Lopetegui, who led Spain to the European Under-19 title two years ago, could afford to rotate a lot and use all 18 field players in his 21-man squad during the three matches.
''For us the most important is that the group is strong,'' the coach said.
Defender Derik was one of just five players featured in every starting lineup, along with striker Jese, who is the team's top goal-scorer with four.
According to Lopetegui, Derik ''is a very important player for us. He has the technique, the concentration, the courage.''
The rotation of players didn't affect the fluency of Spain's game in the group stage. Spain plays like the much-hailed first team, applying the same so-called tiki-taka style of short passing and constant movement of its players, aiming at ball possession for as long as possible.
The resemblance between both teams is significant, according to coach Muhsin Ertugral of Turkey, a member of the FIFA technical study group who analyzes all matches during the U20 World Cup.
Ertugral said Spain was an example how applying a similar approach to playing football in all youth levels can bring long-term success.
''When you look to the first Spanish team,'' Ertugral said, ''and when you look at the Spanish (U20) team you can see certain players exactly like Xavi, like Busquets, even like Casillas. This is a quite amazing situation.''
Opponent Mexico was widely regarded as one of the favorites after winning the qualifying tournament in Central America in March.
But after losing its opening two group matches against Greece and Paraguay, it only just managed to advance to the round of 16 by beating Mali 4-1.
''The third place doesn't reflect their quality,'' Lopetegui said. ''It was a tough group where they came from ... Mexico has a big team. They are winners of the World Cup Under-17 and they have players who won the Olympic Games.''
Lopetegui warned his players they might have to dig deep to get past Mexico.
''They did well, I admire them for their work. They have a lot of ability and skill,'' the coach said. ''We will need to thrive to the limit to win against Mexico because I think they are a strong team.''