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Mariano and Odegaard Shine Against Cultural Leonesa

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Real Madrid’s future is bright.

Real Madrid v Cultural Leonesa - Copa del Rey Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

In a dead-rubber match against a third division side, there are few things that one can meaningfully analyze and take away.

One of those rare things is the performance of youth products; mainly because they deeply care about their minutes and because they are facing a level of opposition similar to what they face on a weekly basis (or faced in Mariano’s case).

The deeply caring part showed clearly in the actions of Mariano, Odegaard, Tejero, and Enzo, as the four young footballers played their heart out in the precious minutes they received.

Mariano and Odegaard in particular, stood out above the rest, which isn’t surprising, considering they are two of the most promising players to have been molded by Castilla in the past few years.

Mariano, much closer to the finished article, displayed his characteristic pace, power, and athleticism en route to a stunning hat-trick.

His first goal was easy enough, as Asensio robbed a Leonesa player of the ball and played in Mariano one-on-one with the keeper.

His second goal displayed more of his trademark qualities, as he exhibited excellent chest control and mind-boggling strength to hold off a harrying marker and position himself for a shot.

The resulting belter into the top corner displayed the Dominican’s immense power and sense of placement.

His third goal was similarly impressive, as he showed good shot accuracy before charging into the box to dispatch a header CR7-style.

But he wasn’t just impressive with his goals; throughout the entire 90 minutes he made the opposition back-line miserable with his incessant harrying, unreal pace, and strength in holding up the ball. Only his touch let him down on occasion.

As if to juxtapose the physical nature of the game against the technical, Martin Odegaard put in a very different kind of performance - one of little chips, dinks, and nutmegs.

But that wasn’t all; besides his excellent (and I mean excellent) technical ability, he also showed brief moments of tactical intelligence by moving into the half spaces to create passing triangles, or by “showing” in the pockets to break defensive blocks. It was honestly an astonishing display of cleverness from a player that is just 17 years old.

While people will be sure to remark that he didn’t do this against Barcelona or anything, this performance is still notable because it was against the best team in the division Odegaard usually plays in - the Segunda División.

However, it was obvious that Martin wasn’t perfect and that he has a fair bit of things to improve (what a surprise). His overeagerness to receive the ball hurt Madrid’s positional structure, as he consistently abandoned the right-wing to drift into the center or even the opposite flank. This also clogged James and Isco’s space, making Odegaard sometimes redundant and inhibitive.

This overeagerness also manifested itself in the desire to play one-twos every time he passed the ball off. Sometimes this worked really well, but other times he merely destroyed a passing option that would’ve existed had he held position in favor of creating a passing option that was surrounded by defenders.

There’s also the issue of him holding onto the ball too long, which isn’t that big of a deal if you think about it. Decision making isn’t the hallmark of a 17 year old (think back to what you did when you were 17) and is a quality that purely grows with time and match experience.

Overall, it was a really encouraging performance from Odegaard; one that will surely allow Madridistas to rest easier when thinking about the future.