Georgia Euros clash is Spain starlet Yamal's next exam

By AFP   June 29, 2024 | 03:10 am PT
Spain are focussed on defeating debutants Georgia on Sunday to reach the Euro 2024 quarter-finals and so is their 16-year-old starlet Lamine Yamal after receiving some good news to clear his head.

Before La Roja tackle their last 16 assignment in Cologne Yamal discovered he had passed his own -- the country's compulsory end of secondary school exams.

Spains Lamine Yamal dribbles the ball during a Group B match between Spain and Croatia at the Euro 2024 football tournament in Berlin, Germany, June 15, 2024. Photo by AP

Spain's Lamine Yamal dribbles the ball during a Group B match between Spain and Croatia at the Euro 2024 football tournament in Berlin, Germany, June 15, 2024. Photo by AP

Still studying when the tournament began in Germany little over a fortnight ago, he shone in Spain's first two matches and was rested for the majority of the third with the team already through top of Group B.

While thoughts started to drift towards the knock-out rounds, Spain's right winger was still waiting on his results.

"I came out from the training session and was told it all went well," Yamal told Spanish radio station Onda Cero late Thursday.

"I passed the exams and I have the ESO title now...

"I saw the grades on my phone and it said I had passed so I just closed the app, called my mum and told her."

Spain aced their "group of death" examination, overcoming Croatia, Italy and Albania to finish the opening phase with a 100 percent record and three clean sheets.

No other team managed either feat and after Spain came into the tournament without the favourites tag worn by France and England, now many are starting to believe in La Roja.

"Everything we've done in the group phase serves for nothing if on Sunday they knock us out," warned Yamal.

"We have played against them before, but we know that it won't be the same game."

Spain thrashed Georgia 7-1 in Euros qualifying in September 2023, in a match where Yamal became both the country's youngest ever player and goalscorer at barely 16.

If the Barcelona winger, who turns 17 on July 13, the day before the Euros final, manages to find the net against Georgia or any prospective future rounds, he will become the youngest goalscorer in Euros history.

The record is currently held by Switzerland's Johan Vonlanthen, who scored at 18 in 2004, whisking it away from England's Wayne Rooney just four days after he had claimed it.

Cutting edge

Joint record three-time winners Spain dominated international football between their 2008 and 2012 Euros triumphs, playing possession football and dominating their opponents with the ball.

In the years since they continued to attempt the same but the world had grown used to it and Spain struggled badly.

As recently as the 2022 World Cup Spain enjoyed high possession but badly lacked cutting edge in attack, which with Yamal and his left wing counterpart Nico Williams, now they have in abundance.

"When you have wingers like that, it makes the other team worry about them," Spain defender Alejandro Grimaldo told AFP.

"They create you advantages in every moment because in one-on-one battles they are unstoppable.

"They give the national team this ability to be direct and put a fear factor into any attack."

With the daring duo in the side, under coach Luis de la Fuente Spain have not kept the ball as much. They have the 10th most possession on average at the tournament.

Against Croatia in their 3-0 group stage victory, Spain had less than 50% possession, for the first time in 16 years.

It mattered not as they split their opponents open, with Yamal's peach of a cross creating the third goal for Dani Carvajal.

Yamal's ascension has been so quick and impressive that his more established peers are stunned by it.

"He should be banned (given) what this kid is doing at 16 years of age," Yamal's Barcelona and Spain team-mate, Ferran Torres told the Guardian.

"I'll report him to the police after 14 July... let him help us win it first."

Should Spain progress to the quarter-finals they could face hosts Germany, which would be arguably the biggest game of Yamal's career to date, a career that started at 15 when he made his Barcelona debut.

The youngster has risen to meet every challenge in his path thus far, be it mathematics and history, which he admitted are the hardest school subjects, or elite defenders on football's biggest stages.

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