In the 50th minute of play, a Colombian player fell to the deck, holding her leg in agony. A stretcher was called for after referee Luliana Demetrescu and the team’s physio made an assessment. It was going to be a long delay in the match between Spain and Colombia at the Fifa U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Spanish player Marina Rivas recognised this. She marched over to the centre circle, picked up the ball and walked back into her half. Along with Spain captain Marina Artero, the duo engaged in a one-touch passing routine on the DY Patil Stadium pitch in Navi Mumbai.

They faced each other from a few yards away, passing the ball to each other, alternating between the left and right foot, all done seamlessly. A few moments later, another player Sandra Villafane joined in. It took Demetrescu to walk into the middle of the trio and pick up the ball to end the training ground exercise.

This impromptu two-minute passing drill was a microcosm of what Spain – the defending champions – were about.

Eventually they’d win 1-0 on the night, thanks to a goal of high quality though it came late. On Wednesday night, the match was a clash of two contrasting styles.

Fifa U-17 Women’s World Cup: Thomas Dennerby’s India blown away by superior USA on a nervy night

Spain was a far technically superior team. They held the ball, moved it around rapidly and accurately – by the end of the match, the Spanish team had made 495 passes to 220 from their opponents. Their build-up play was fluid and the team was in-sync, attacking in numbers.

It’s a result of a great deal of investment and focus that has been put into developing a grassroots structure for upcoming talent.

“We have put in place very strong territorial competitions in Spain from where we scout for young talent and make them part of our national system. They then move to clubs (to make sure they have a way forward). It has worked and you can see how many players we are producing,” Spain’s coach Kenio Gonzalo was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.

The 21 players from Spain come from eight different clubs, which include but is not limited to, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Colombia, meanwhile, were more physical in their approach. They couldn’t match the Spanish in terms of technical ability – not to say they lacked the skill – so they used their bodies to try and outmuscle the opponents. Their attacking play was built more through the channels created by their star player and captain Linda Caicedo. Speed on the wings was crucial, but not equal, as many times pace would get a winger into a good position on the flank but a cross into a dangerous area, on the break, would find no Colombian in position to convert the chances.

Yet still the Colombians managed to keep the score goalless for a majority of the match – even creating their own stellar chances. Like in the 16th minute, when Yesica Munoz hit a snapshot half-volley that dipped menacingly and needed Sofia Fuente to pull off an excellent back-pedalling save.

But that was only after Carla Camacho’s trickery down the left flank for Spain saw her shot getting cleared off the line by Maria Correa, the Colombian centre back.

For most of the match, Spain held possession and attempted to make inroads, while Colombia tried to bite back in the counter-attack.

The defending champions, who in May lost the final of the Uefa Women’s U17 Championship to Germany on penalties, did seem to have broken the deadlock at the hour mark.

A delightful diagonal ball from Paula Partido found Vicky Lopez, who controlled, broke away from her marker and slotted past 15-year-old Luisa Agudelo. However, the Virtual Assistant Referee – which is making its debut at a Fifa event – ruled for handball.

The goal did come though, in the 85th minute. A long ball from defence was neatly flicked on by Ainhoa Alguacil to Jone Amezaga.

The 17-year-old forward, who plays for the Athletic Bilbao senior team, charged down the right flank, cut to her left to go past Stefania Perlaza, and coolly slotted the ball into the bottom near corner to break the deadlock.

Spain had to hold on for another five minutes of regulation time, and eight minutes of stoppage time – remember that long delay early in the second half, long enough to allow time for a quick passing drill.

But the defending champions did hold on, and walked away with three points to get off to a good start in India.