Ilaix Moriba (Guinea Conakry, 2003) it’s one of the sensations of Spain so far in the U-17 World Cup. He is the ‘small’ of the team (a year younger than the rest), although no one would say it when he saw him: his imposing physique stands out. That physical ability has given a new variant to La Rojita at a time when it comes from overcoming Cameroon (African champion) with a goal from the Barcelona player and when another selection of Africa eighths, in this case Senegal.
Traditionally Spain, like the other European teams, has suffered greatly in these categories to combat the physical potency of Africans. Therefore, Moriba’s presence in the middle of the field is a ‘blessing’ for David Gordo. Its strength, hierarchy and vertical play have blended seamlessly with the traditional touch football of the national team. It offers new alternatives and allows Spain to be unforeseeable.
In this adaptation of Ilaix to Spanish football there are two fundamental names: Aitor Gelardo and Beñat Turrientes. The midfielders of the Villarreal and the Royal Society, respectively, they are other names of the tournament’s own for its brilliant performance so far. “Even if he’s a year younger, he doesn’t seem to be because of his physique,” Says Turrientes. “It makes it easy for you and makes you a better player,” Gelardo adds. So far, Gordo has rotated them: before Argentina went out with Gelardo-Turrientes, before Tajikistan with Moriba-Turrientes and in front of Cameroon with Gelardo-Moriba. All three combinations have given an outstanding result.
That performance is a puzzle for Gordo, who must choose two to play against Senegal or switch the system and line up all three to gain muscle against a selection as physical as the African one (it’s an option if Valera didn’t make it in time). In any case, Ilaix Moriba will be key to combating that African muscle that has always done so much damage to La Rojita in this category in previous tournaments. Whether as a starter or in the second half, when there is a lack of oxygen in the legs of Gordo’s internationals.
Personally, Ilaix Moriba is probably the most media footballer in Spain alongside Pedri. It is also the joy of this selection: “He’s cheerful, he’s always laughing. He’s a good person,” Says Turrientes. “He’s a hilarious guy, you’re confident to have him by your side,” Gelardo says. It is the most physically powerful, but also one of the most rich of this U-17…