Teenage dreams for Mason Melia as Ireland U-17s target Spain shock

Ireland's Mason Melia, centre, and Luke Kehir after their win over Hungary. Photo: David Balogh/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Young prospect Mason Melia says the Republic of Ireland’s U-17 side have a World Cup goal in mind as they take on Spain in the last eight of the European Championship finals tonight.

Nine-time European champions Spain stand between Colin O’Brien’s side and a place in the last four of the Euros, with Ireland guaranteed a place in this year’s U-17 World Cup finals if they can make it into the semis. There’s also a backdoor route to the World Cup in a play-off for two of the beaten quarter-finalists.

Spain have a fearsome reputation and a player, Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal, who has already played first team football in La Liga this season but boss O’Brien has reminded his side that they have already beaten sides like Italy and hosts Hungary to get this far. “Spain are stacked with quality, they really are,” says O’Brien. “So we will have to show a lot of patience,

intelligence, but we do have a threat and we have to believe we can get something out of this game because it’s a quarter-final and these opportunities do not come around every year for us, we will try and maximise it. One of the big differences with Spain is the way they dominate the ball, it’s just something we have to be tactically prepared for but we won’t fear them.

“That won’t be in our mindset, we have to respect the game and make sure we carry a threat when the moments are right.”

St Patrick’s Athletic attacker Melia – whose form has made him the focus of interest from a host of continental scouts – is confident his side can deliver despite the quality of the opposition.

“Getting Spain is amazing, anything can happen in tournament football, we have a good team and a great chance, it’s an amazing opportunity to play against the likes of Spain. If we win the quarter-final we’re going to the World Cup, that’s just surreal, I’d never have expected to play in a World Cup, but first we have to win on Saturday,” Melia said, boosted by his own form, especially in the impressive win over Hungary.

“It was an amazing feeling to get the two goals and two assists, I’m just buzzing with that.”

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