Dani Ceballos, Jesus Vallejo, and Borja Mayoral all started for Spain’s U21 team today as they hosted Iceland. It was a game where Spain monopolized the ball (hovering around 80% possession all game), and left little hope for the Icelandic team to snatch a goal. They had, on my count, four dangerous counter attacks up until the 70th minute that led to nothing. Three of those had to go through Jesus Vallejo (who captained the team), and all three of those went exactly as you’d expect — with Vallejo easily reading the play and retaining possession for Spain.
It should be stated, that, even with all the possession and defensive comfort with Vallejo as the defensive bulwark, Spain in no way ever looked like they’d run away with this game. That’s a huge testament to Iceland’s defense, and you should give your daps to their entire coaching system — from senior to youth level. They are organized, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and generally are very intelligent in getting the most out of the resources they have.
Spain scored in the first half, but it wasn’t easy piercing Iceland’s defense. Dani Ceballos, Fabian, and Carlos Soler all tried to use their vision to catch Mayoral’s horizontal runs. Often, they’d try to use Aaron Martin and Pablo Maffeo’s runs on the flanks as decoys before cutting in and shooting or slipping a through-pass centrally. Iceland did well to snuff out as much as they could while playing narrow and tight.
Eventually, Spain did start finding their way through in the final third as the game wore on, but they watched Borja Mayoral miss four clear-cut chances before he was subbed off in the 82nd minute. Here is, um, Borja’s highlight reel:
Mayoral’s misses helped the scoreline look better for Iceland, to be sure.
The most involved Madridista — nay, of any player out there — was Dani Ceballos. As he has with Real Betis and the U-21 team in the past year, Ceballos was the focal point for everything the team does. He was a constant outlet, constantly on the ball, and constantly curating chances. He provided the assists to Fabian for Spain’s goal, and outside of that, if he wasn’t constantly looking for openings in Iceland’s defense with a pass, he was cutting in for dangerous shots:
Spain have now won all three of their games with a game in hand, and are tied on points for first place with Northern Ireland. Their next match will be against Slovakia on the 18th.