“I’m flattered to be compared to Xavi Hernandez but it’s a lot to live up to as well. Imagine being as good as him. It makes me proud, though.” The words are those of a smiling Oliver Torres, whose job it will be to mimic what Xavi does for the full national side and pull the strings for Spain at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013.
The reigning European champions and one of the favourites for the world title, the Spanish juniors adhere to the same footballing values as their esteemed seniors, as the gifted 18-year-old schemer explained to FIFA.com: “Like theirs, our philosophy is based on having possession of the ball and trying to find space and create chances. It’s very nice football to watch.”
A crucial facet of La Rojita’s stylish approach to the game is Torres’s ability to link up with the team’s two stars up front: Gerard Deulofeu and Jese Rodriguez. It is a role he relishes, though as he explains, he is happy to play anywhere in a side where possession is very much nine tenths of the law: “I feel happy whenever I get on the ball, and no matter where you play in this team you’re going to see plenty of it. I'd even be happy playing in goal," he added jokingly.
Though well aware that much will be expected of Spain, Torres is determined, like his team-mates, to return from Turkey with the main prize.
“The objective is to win, like every goal you set yourself in life,” said the Atletico Madrid man. “It goes without saying that we’ll be taking it step by step, but we’re not frightened of anyone. Nor do we think we’re better than anyone. We are Spain and we need to go out and take the game to our rivals.”
I’m flattered to be compared to Xavi Hernandez but it’s a lot to live up to as well. Imagine being as good as him. It makes me proud, though.
Though Julen Lopetegui’s side have been drawn in arguably the toughest of the six groups alongside France, Ghana and USA, the central midfielder is anything but downhearted about the task in hand: “If you want to win a tournament, you have to take on the best. And I think it’ll be good for us to have the best in our group because if we get through this, we’ll come out the other side even stronger.”
While picking out the French, Paraguay and African sides as genuine title contenders, Torres also believes Spain have what it takes to succeed in Turkey: “We’re ready to win this World Cup. The team is built on solid foundations.
The first test of those foundations will come this Friday, when the Spaniards face the Americans in their Group A debut. The target is an obvious one: “Getting a win under our belts would really put as at ease and give us the chance to keep on developing as a team.”
That development process has been hampered by a lack of preparation time this year, though Torres is of the opinion that he and his team-mates know each other well enough already. “We’re lucky in that we’re more than just a football team. We’re friends too,” he explained. “That bond between us means we understand each other better and helps us overcome obstacles like that.”
Beaten in the quarter-finals two years ago, Spain now have a fresh opportunity to win their second world crown in the category, the first having been secured in 1999 by a team led by none other than Xavi Hernandez.
Whether that is a good omen or not, Torres is intent on continuing to play the game the way his biggest footballing hero Ronaldinho has always done: “Everything he did on the pitch was magical, and he did it with a smile too. I think that’s really important in football. No matter what happens, you have to know how to enjoy it.”