During the 21st century, we have seen teams winning the continental accolades and the world cup. In early 1990s, Brazil won the World Cup and youth world titles for under 17 and under 20 respectively.
In 1998 France won the Fifa World Cup and European championship in 2000. That’s t to say, France was the best team on the planet.
But the French fall started in 2002 when they faced early exit from the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, having lost to Senegal in the first game.
Now, Spain is to be the king of world football. The Spanish won the 2008 European champions and went a head to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the first world title.
Two months ago, Spain added the European U21 championship crown, and last month, they won the Euro U-19 title, and they are currently in a driving seat at the under-20 World Cup in Colombia. Spain takes on Brazil in the quarter-finals on Sunday.
Special with today’s Spain is their rise of form at the youth stage. Spain is proving to be the best nation in all youth tournaments.
The trick behind all this recent success is a vision to create a distinct identity for them in the football world. When you look at Spanish football, you realize a top level organization at the grass root level.
Naturally, Spanish players lack the physical ability as compared to the English, Italian, Germany or French players. So, on learning that their players were not physically imposing enough, a plan was devised structured to suit the qualities of their players.
The Spanish football authority has in the past encouraged its clubs to scout for a particular type of players to ensure that the national federation and the clubs were united in producing world class players.
For example, Barcelona has a youth system consisting of 13 levels to reach the senior side. And the beauty is that all these youth teams function in the same way as the senior club side and also play in the same kind of leagues designed for their specific ages.
So, as the players move up the order they begin to gain the necessary exposure playing in competitive leagues rather than some meaningless reserve games that hold no importance. Players performing well in these youth leagues are then picked up by the regional federations for representation.
The Spanish football authority has 19 regional football federations and all these federations work in sync with the national and the club federations.
All the players’ information is passed from the club level to the regional level and then to the national level in a detailed manner.
If any player manages to impress at club level, he is called to play for his regional federation and if he further impresses, he then progresses to play at the national level.
The country produces many young footballers every year and you can imagine the kind of effort, the filtering and the competition these kids face to make it to the national youth side.
Most of these footballing nations divide their youth setups into two groups; the formation group and performing group. The U15, U16, U17 and U18 teams come under the formation group and U19, U20 and U21 come under the performing groups.
Each age group has a dedicated coach and an assistant and if the dedicated coach decides to move on, the assistant takes up his job with the coach in the next age group appointed as his assistant.
This ensures the continuity of progress. And when the player has good success at U21 level, he is then graduated to the National A squad, which is the stepping stone to a place in the Spanish National team.
This hardworking mentality has already reaped winning success for the Spanish junior sides and senior team as well.