The stakes are high for Spain as they travel to Poland seeking to lift the UEFA European Under-19 Championship trophy for the third time. Not only have two of the previous four tournaments ended in a Spanish victory, but 15 goals in three Elite round games this time around have raised expectations of a third triumph. In midfield powerhouse Javi García, they have the perfect man to justify those hopes.
The combative 19-year-old plays his club football with Real Madrid CF's B team, registering four goals in 32 games in the Spanish second division last season. He even made a late UEFA Champions League appearance as a substitute for Madrid against Olympiacos CFP in December, and his international coach Ginés Meléndez believes comparisons with French pair Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele are justified.
García's strength in the air makes him an asset in both defence and attack, but his greatest quality is his ability to produce surging runs through the middle. "He is a very strong player, a very powerful midfielder who is also technically gifted," Meléndez told uefa.com. "He is a complete player. He has great presence, can score goals, is strong in the air and is similar in style to Patrick Vieira, although he's actually more of a cross between Vieira and Makelele."
Sixteen yellow and two red cards in 2005/06 showed a wild side that needs to be checked, but Meléndez is nevertheless clear on what he has to offer. "What he brings to the team is seriousness. He is very hard-working and a great ball-winner, but above all he is serious. He balances the team very well and gives the rest of the players self-belief on and off the pitch. He has spent the whole season in the second division and also played for the first team, so he has a great deal of experience and that will help him and us a lot."
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