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Dani Ceballos a stand out before injury in Spain’s 0-0 draw with Egypt, 2021 Olympics

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Ceballos was the best of the Real Madrid trio before leaving the match through injury

Japan v Spain - U-24 International Friendly Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Spain have brought a talented squad to the Olympics and have been touted as one of the favorites to earn the gold medal ahead of the tournament. Head coach Luis de la Fuente has given protagonist roles to two Real Madrid players in his team: Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio. Both players started in de la Fuente’s 4-3-3 system, with Ceballos in a hybrid #10/#8 central midfield role alongside Pedri and Mikel Merino, while Marco Asensio started on the right wing.

Dani Ceballos is a co-captain of the team and has been given the #10 shirt. He was Spain’s best player while still on the pitch. He threaded inch perfect progressive passes between Egypt’s right center back and right back on multiple occasions. One of Dani Olmo or Miranda would make a run down the left and Ceballos’ threaded passes would break Egypt’s defensive line and find his Spanish counterpart in stride. It felt like Dani Ceballos was back to his best. There is something about youth international tournaments and Ceballos turning on the style. His dribbling was smooth, he pulled off reverse passes, and he nearly scored with a curled shot outside the box which hit the post. It was Spain’s best opportunity of the match.

Unfortunately, Ceballos had to depart the match early through injury. In the 42nd minute, he crashed into Egypt’s Taher Mohamed and came off the worse for wear. According to a report from Arancha Rodriguez, Ceballos suffered a sprained ankle and his progress will be evaluated in the next 48 hours to determine the true extent of his injury.

Although Ceballos was the stand out, he wasn’t the only Real Madrid player on the pitch. Marco Asensio started the match and Jesus Vallejo entered for an injured Oscar Mingueza in the 20th minute. Interestingly, Vallejo was given the captain’s band by Ceballos, before he even entered the match as a substitute — Vallejo was still waiting on the sideline when the armband was slipped on. It was a Marco Asensio appearance that Real Madrid fans have become far too accustomed to in recent seasons. He struggled to make his mark in the game and too often it felt like he was a passenger. He played on the right wing for the majority of the first half and then switched with Dani Olmo to play on the left wing for the majority of the second half before being substituted out in the 67th minute for Bryan Gil.

When Vallejo entered the match, he slotted straight in for Oscar Mingueza who was playing right back. Eric Garcia and Pau Torres was the preferred center back partnership for Luis de la Fuente, thus Vallejo has been forced to play out of position. The Real Madrid man looked like a center back playing right back. He provided very little offensive threat and Spain required more width given their dominance of possession.

Overall, a 0-0 draw was a fair result. Despite Spain having the majority of the ball, they created very few goal-scoring opportunities. Mikel Oyarzabal as a false nine experiment did not work and Spain could have used a more recognized striker, like Rafa Mir, to get on the end of their many crosses. A draw is not the worst result for one of the tournament favorites, but they will need to click into gear soon if they want any chance of winning the Olympic gold.