Spain coach Luis Enrique was taken by surprise by the self-confidence and spark he saw in teenaged forward Ansu Fati, who became his country’s youngest ever goalscorer by netting in a 4-0 win against Ukraine in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday.
Fati, who turns 18 on October 31, turned in a sensational all-round display in his first start for Spain and struck his first goal for his country to make it 3-0 in the 32nd minute with a superb effort from outside the area which went in off the post.
“It’s not normal for him to have this spark and self-confidence at this age. But we’ll try to manage that so he can help the team as much as possible, just as he did today,” Luis Enrique said.
Sergio Ramos had given Spain an early lead by converting a penalty earned by Fati and the defender struck again with a header, while substitute Ferran Torres rounded off an outstanding team display.
Yet Fati was the unmistakeable star and his goal saw him break the late Juan Errazquin’s record as Spain’s youngest goalscorer that had stood for 95 years.
Errazquin scored his first goal against Switzerland in 1925 at the age of 18 years and 344 days.
Fati did not waste his time in making his mark on the game, winning a penalty after bursting into the box from the left wing after effortlessly nutmegging an opponent.
“Even though I know him well and what he’s capable of, I can’t say I’m not surprised,” added the coach.
“He showed such bravery and daring to do what he did in the second minute, beating a player so naturally. I can’t remember him doing anything like this before.”
Fati, who was born in Guinea-Bissau but moved to Seville in Spain aged six with his family, became Spain’s youngest player in 84 years when he made his debut in last Thursday’s 1-1 draw away to Germany.
He became Barcelona’s youngest ever goalscorer in La Liga last year with a goal against Osasuna and also became the youngest ever scorer in the history of the Champions League by netting against Inter Milan in December.
Yet Luis Enrique brushed aside any concern that the forward’s outstanding achievements so soon in his career could distract him from continuing to grow.
“At this age it’s easy for all the praise to go to your head but he’s mature enough to know that the path he is taking at the moment is the one he needs to stay on to develop as a player,” he added.
“He’s humble, he’s calm and I’m sure it won’t affect him.”
Meanwhile, Germany were still waiting for their first-ever Nations League win after they gave a tired performance and were held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland on Sunday.
Ilkay Gundogan gave Joachim Loew’s side the perfect start with a clinical goal in the 14th minute but Silvan Widmer earned their smaller neighbours a deserved draw just before the hour.
In the end, Germany may have been grateful for the result in the League A Group 4 game as the much livelier hosts, unbeaten in their last 17 competitive matches at home, created the better chances.
Germany, who also let the lead slip in a 1-1 draw with Spain on Thursday, failed to win any of their four games in the inaugural Nations League two years ago and have drawn their opening two games this time around.
Switzerland have one point after losing their opener to Ukraine.
Germany coach Joachim Loew was left frustrated by his team’s failure to capitalise on their early lead.
“We didn’t take our chances for a second goal and allowed Switzerland to take control in the second half — in the end I thought a draw was the right result,” he said.
“When you lead 1-0 in two games and don’t win either, it’s annoying. It’s a problem that we are not finishing off games… I doubt that Switzerland would have come back from 2-0 behind.”
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