- Sergio Gomez was on a yellow card in Sunday's quarter-final versus Iran
- He risked suspension for Wednesday's semi-final against Mali
- Gomez scored a fine goal in Spain's victory in Kochi
It is not easy for any player to head into a FIFA World Cup quarter-final on a yellow card, knowing that another booking could leave them out of the semi-finals, as Spain midfielder Sergio Gomez will tell you.
“I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t cross my mind at all during the game, but it didn’t affect the way I played,” the Spain No10 told FIFA.com in Kochi, after scoring a superb goal in his side’s 3-1 victory over Iran in the last eight at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.
“I think if you think too much about it, you run the risk of going into a challenge late or making a mistake. Even when you get things right, you can still pick up a card, which is what happened to [Jose] Lara today. That’s why the best thing is to play without fear and be focused.”
Gomez’s stats at India 2017
*Matches: 5 | Average time played per match: 84 minutes 58 seconds
Goals: 2 | Assists: 1*
Gomez spent the first half and most of the second on the left flank before switching to a central position, an area of the pitch where there tend to be more tackles flying around. Yet, although he had to chase opposing players down on a couple of occasions, he stayed on his feet at all times and out of trouble.
“Even at times like that, I never thought about the possibility of picking up another card,” he said. “When you’re involved in the action, the only thing that’s on your mind is winning the ball and nothing else.”
Gomez explained that Spain coach Santi Denia said nothing to him about being on a card before the game, though the player did speak about it with some of his team-mates: “Nobody wants to miss a World Cup semi-final, though we didn’t make a big deal out of it, either.”
Gomez will not have the threat of suspension hanging over him when Spain take on Mali in the semi-finals, a side who will pose more of a physical challenge. “It’ll be a relief to be playing without that pressure, but winning is what counts. If you’d said to me before the Iran game that I’d have to take another yellow for us to get through, I would taken it without any problem at all.”
The coach’s view
“I never speak about it with my players because experience has shown me that it just puts extra pressure on them. If I tell them to go for the ball this way or that way or that they watch out when doing it, I’m putting something into their heads and it makes it worse. Gomez dodged a card today, but Lara didn’t. That’s the way it goes.”
His goal: “When the ball came to me, I saw that I was in space, looked up and just hit it. If there had been someone on me, I’d have passed to a team-mate.”
Did you mean to put it there? “Yes, that’s where I was aiming for, I swear!” (laughs)
Inside or outside? “I’ll play wherever the boss puts me. I’ve got more space to run in, if I’m out wide, but if I’m tucked in a bit, I’m on the ball more and I’ve got more shooting opportunities, like today. I like both positions.”
Mali, Spain’s opponents in the semi-finals: “They’re physically very strong. But we’re Spain and we’ll play like Spain.”
Another quick one-two
Why football? “Because of my grandfather and my uncles. They’ve always liked the game. My grandfather gave me my first ball.”
A role model? “Iniesta. He’s not just a fantastic footballer; he’s a very down-to-earth person too.”