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Friday, December 09, 2022

Spain ushers in a new era against Costa Rica in Qatar

DOHA ( Associated Press) – Luis Enrique’s new Spain enters the scene in Qatar.

Without the trauma experienced at the start of the last World Cup and armed with a young group of players, Spain made their World Cup debut against Costa Rica on Wednesday, clinging to the memory of their 2014 World Cup achievement.

Toned by their recent good results, the Iberian Reds intend to stamp another star on the national jersey, after the triumph of a generation led by Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Iker Casillas in South Africa 2010, and coincidentally bad memory. Wiped out Russia of 2018.

Two days before his debut at the last World Cup, Spain fired coach Julen Lopetegui because he had not informed union leaders in advance that he had reached an agreement to lead Real Madrid. La Rosa was eliminated in the last 16 in a penalty shootout against hosts Russia.

Costa Rica are also looking to turn the page on a World Cup that saw them go through the first round without winning a single game and four years after their spectacular campaign in Brazil, where they reached the quarter-finals. Many of the heroes of that unprecedented achievement, including goalkeepers Keylor Navas and Bryan Ruiz, are back in Qatar.

“It will be a tough match against Costa Rica who are playing their third (consecutive) World Cup and who have competed incredibly well,” Luis Enrique said at a press conference. “But that doesn’t mean we are too excited and want to win this game.”

Spain is now betting on youngsters such as Pedri Gonzalez, 19, Ansu Fati and Nico Williams, 20, and 18-year-old Gavi, the youngest scorer in La Rosa’s history. It is one of the youngest teams in the tournament, along with Ghana, the United States and Ecuador.

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Spain enters the tournament with a squad with an average age of 25.3 years. More than half the squad is 25 or under, with six players aged 20 or under in their first World Cup.

Pedri, Gavi and Fati are likely to start against Costa Rica. The rest of the youth chosen by Luis Enrique – in line with the youth wave by dedicating himself to broadcasting on Twitch during the World Cup – are Ferran Torres, Yeremey Pino, Eric García, Hugo Guillamón and Alejandro Balde.

“I think it’s the responsibility of the whole team,” said Barcelona’s attacking midfielder Pedri. “I don’t think I’m the star of the national team because I’m on a billboard in Doha.”

The main doubts in Spain are defender Guillemon, who is recovering from a knee problem, and veteran winger Dani Carvajal, who is undergoing a flu shot. However, Luis Enrique did not rule out that both players could be available on Wednesday.

Spain and Costa Rica have never met in the World Cup. Both form Group E along with Germany and Japan. Spain, which has qualified for the semi-finals of the League of Nations in Europe for the second time, may have looked to Costa Rica and what the Central American team is capable of achieving.

Although they lost in the final qualifying round and were the last team to seal their passage into the Intercontinental Playoffs, Costa Rican players say the group is much more established, united and dreaming of another great tournament. In Brazil, he advanced as first in a difficult tournament in which Italy and England were eliminated. He scored in the quarter-finals against the Netherlands on penalties.

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One of the concerns in Costa Rica has to do with Navas due to his inactivity at Paris Saint-Germain. So far this season, the former Real Madrid forward has not seen action with his club.

After a rocky start to the last World Cup, Spain are looking to start off on the right foot this time around.

“We haven’t started winning in either of us, it’s just a matter of time,” said Sergio Busquets, the champion and captain playing in his fourth World Cup in a row in South Africa. “It gives you that point of peace, although in the long run it won’t help you at all. But it can come in handy for players who haven’t played in the World Cup and it gives them that experience.

The Colombian helmsman for Costa Rica, Luis Fernando Suárez, said that against Spain “we must be very demanding in strategy and focus, make them feel uncomfortable and deploy our strengths.”

“The tension will be at its peak, but the players are in very good nature and in a good mood,” he added.

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Associated Press Tales writer Azzoni contributed to this report.

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