Juanfran and Gavilán are what you might call the elder statesmen of Spanish youth football. The FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005 is their second appearance at youth football's premier event after they reached the final of the last edition in the United Arab Emirates in 2003. Also on their CVs are winner's medals from their UEFA European U-19 Championship victory over Turkey - the same opponent now standing between them and a place in the quarter-finals here at Netherlands 2005.
"Just as they were in that final, Turkey will again be tough opponents. They press you all the time and get numbers behind the ball. We'll need to stay patient and composed when it comes to delivering the final pass, as that could make all the difference," Jaime Gavilán tells FIFA.com.
Juanfran agrees with his team-mate's analysis and assures us that it will be a good game with everyone anxious to play. "The stadium will be full of Turkish fans, which should create a great atmosphere. These are the type of games that all of us want to play in. I think they are basically the same side that we saw in the European Final, and that we have the beating of them if we play well."
Both players know what it takes to beat Senol Ustaomer's side then, even if the scorer of the winning goal in the final, Borja Valero, will not be on hand on Wednesday to send an exquisite lob over the Turkish keeper. Nonetheless, Iñaki Sáez's side are not lacking firepower up front.
"I think we have to avoid being too gung-ho early on and taking unnecessary risks at the back. We need to stick to what we do best, which is moving the ball around, dictating the tempo and tiring them out. Once we do that, we have the players in midfield and attack that are capable of turning the game," says Gavilán.
What about those penalties you were practicing in training? "At this level, you never know what will happen. But if we do things well, it shouldn't come to that," the No. 11 says with a grin.
The moment of truth
Nobody came close to matching Spain in Group C. They breezed past Morocco, scored seven against Chile and fielded a reserve team against Honduras and still won at a canter. "I wouldn't go so far as to say it was easy, but it was certainly straightforward. It also allowed us to prepare for the knockout stage, which is the moment of truth. Now is the time for us players to prove our worth and show that we're capable of going the distance," says Gavilán, who has a growing reputation for providing magnificent assists to the strikers and finishing his chances himself.
The right-winger Juanfran, currently on the books of Real Madrid, also says that the team's three group games have helped to give some mental fortitude to the side. "They have been good for us, because they have made us realise that we have a great team. I also think that we have to watch that we don't get over-confident and let complacency set in. Turkey will provide the stiffest test we have had so far."
Mentally fortified and physically renewed, the squad available for selection has been rotated so that every single member has had playing time and no one arrives exhausted for the last 16. With their batteries recharged, the players can't wait to get out there. "It has worked in our favour as many players have had the chance to recuperate. That gives us an advantage over Turkey because they had three tough games and only secured qualification in the final match," says the Madrid player.
In their free time between training and games, the Spanish players have been watching the other ties from Netherlands 2005. Have they seen any sides they like? Who do they think are the candidates? "Maybe the Netherlands" says Juanfran, looking at his team-mate. "They have been a surprise because as hosts they didn't have to play in the qualifiers, yet they are playing very good football. They are one of the sides that could go all the way to the final. Brazil, on the other hand, have been a little disappointing so far. I thought they would be better."
"I still think they will be there or thereabouts come the business end. They are a side with a lot of strength in depth and always pull through. Sometimes it can be a little bit of luck, other times the quality of a player can tip the balance," says the Tenerife midfielder Gavilán.
From the Emirates to the Netherlands
Both players shared the experience of the FIFA World Youth Championship UAE 2003 and agree that the circumstances are completely different. "When we went to the UAE, no one expected us to reach the final as most of the players were practically unknown. This time round, people's expectations are much higher as most of the squad are first or second division players. Of course, this side is also capable of reaching the final. Spain have come here to win the tournament," says a determined Juanfran.
His team-mate echoes the sentiment. "As circumstances have it, some of the squad are already established with top sides. However, we can't let that lead to overconfidence. We need to stay humble so that we go into these games with the right attitude and win them."
Though still very young men, the pair are models of professionalism and responsibility. They have given up their holidays, and left their friends and family, to pursue their dream. "Going three years without a holiday has not been easy, but this tournament is of paramount importance. Later comes the part I've spent my whole life dreaming about: pre-season and the hope of making an impression and getting my chance in the league," says Gavilán.
"I'd love to go on vacation, but when the opportunity arises to play at a World Championship and then start pre-season training with Real Madrid, then I have no problem playing through the summer. What I want more than anything is just to play football," says the Merengue winger.
For now, their stay in the Netherlands is only booked until 22 June, though nothing would please the pair more than to extend that until 2 July and leave here with a winner's medal.