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Whelan recalls first clash with brilliant Iniesta

IT WAS all of 12 years ago, but Glenn Whelan still recalls the first time he did battle with a man called Iniesta.

In October 2000, Ireland's U16 side played Spain and Latvia in the qualifying rounds for the European Championship finals.

Spain beat Ireland 2-0 to win that qualifying group and the Spanish would go on to win the tournament overall the following summer, Fernando Torres the emerging star of that Spanish side.

Whelan played for Ireland against Spain in the qualifier, alongside team-mates like Stephen Rice, Stephen Bradley and Paul Keegan and the memory's still fresh for the Stoke City player.

"Iniesta (above) played that day, I remember him even now," says Whelan.

"We had a good Irish side then but Spain were brilliant. We were only kids at the time but even still, I remember thinking after the match that Iniesta was some player and it's amazing to see what he has achieved since then."