- Spain's Cesar Gelabert had two assists in their semi-final win over Mali
- Believes game plan versus African champions was decisive in the result
- La Rojita meet England in Saturday's final in Kolkata
"I get on really well with Abel [Ruiz]. I always tell him that I play to help him get the goals."
Cesar Gelabert's words, uttered in the wake of Spain's 3-1 victory over Mali in the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 semi-finals, could not have rung truer.
The Rojita playmaker produced a storming display against the African side, winning the penalty that Ruiz converted to make it 1-0, before threading a sumptuous through ball from which his country's No9 and captain doubled the scoring. He also performed his defensive duties diligently throughout his 67 minutes on the pitch.
"I'll never say, 'Yes, I played well'," the midfielder told FIFA.com when asked whether or not a player is aware that they have had a great game. "I always think of the team. If the team help me, then I'm able to do things better."
- Cesar Gelabert fact file
Date of birth: 31 October 2000
Club: Real Madrid
Record at India 2017: 5 appearances, 2 goals, 2 assists
In Gelabert's view, Spain's tactical approach was a key factor in their triumph: "The game plan today was to sit back and hit them on the break. We let them have the ball and then, when they tried to play through the middle, we capitalised on the space in behind their defenders," said the No18.
Navi Mumbai bore witness to what Cesar is capable of when he is afforded time and space to think. But what about when he is denied them? "I try to draw in opposition players and provide a decoy, freeing up my team-mates to do what I'm not being allowed to," said the 17-year-old, who has featured in each of Spain's games except their opener against Brazil.
The Real Madrid academy youngster has found the net twice in the tournament, but stressed that while he enjoys scoring goals, he derives greater pleasure from setting them up: "Because it makes me happy to feel that I'm helping my team. That's always been the case."
Fancy meeting you again…
Just like at the UEFA U-17 European Championship, Spain's opponents in the final will be England, who they dramatically defeated on penalties last time out after forcing a shoot-out with a stoppage-time equaliser. "I'm expecting a similar match, although we've improved defensively, so they'll find it more difficult to attack us. We're going to take the game to them and I'm confident we'll beat them."
Did you know?
Cesar is the son of Juanmi Gelabert, a former defender who had to hang up his boots in 2007 – following a 16-year playing career – after sustaining an injury when the ball caught him flush in the eye. "He's my idol. He gave me my first ball and my first shirt, the one he wore when he played for Sevilla."
- On having a footballing dad: "It's great. I don't want someone who tells me that I'm doing everything right; I need him to pinpoint the things I do wrong."
- The last bit of advice his father gave him: "Before today's game against Mali, he told me just to play the way I do every weekend for Real Madrid, to be myself."
- And the last piece of criticism: "After the France match, he told me I should've got more involved and that I hadn't 'been Cesar' that day."
- Do they talk about anything apart from football?: "I try to! He lives in Alicante and I live in Madrid, and when I tell him something like how I got on at school, he'll say, 'And how did training go?'."