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Brunei
Friday, December 9, 2022
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Friday, December 9, 2022
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    Young Spain squad makes World Cup debut

    DOHA, QATAR (AP) – A new era is about to start for Spain at the World Cup, with a generation of talented young players taking centre stage in its quest to win a second world title.

    Spain’s revamped squad, led by back-to-back Golden Boy award winners Pedri and Gavi, will begin being put to the test tonight against an experienced Costa Rica team that is bringing back some of the players that helped it make a surprising run to the quarterfinals eight years ago.

    The Costa Ricans hope to repeat the success of the World Cup in Brazil and avoid the debacle of four years ago in Russia, when they didn’t win any matches and were eliminated in the group stage.

    Spain also wants to avoid a repeat of the 2018 tournament, when they were ousted by the hosts in the round of 16 after going through an embarrassing coaching change just days before its debut.

    Many of the veterans from that tournament are gone, including Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué, Andrés Iniesta and David Silva.

    Spain’s forward Nico Williams, defender Alejandro Balde and midfielder Gavi take part in a training session at Qatar Universty in Doha. PHOTO: AFP

    Instead, coach Luis Enrique is betting on the likes of 19-year-old Pedri, 20-year-old Ansu Fati and Nico Williams, and 18-year-old Gavi, Spain youngest ever goal scorer.

    “I think the entire team carries the responsibility,” Pedri said.

    “I don’t feel like I’m the star of the national team just because I’m on a billboard in Doha.

    I’m focussing on playing, on being in a good state of mind and on helping as much as possible depending on what the coach asks from me.”

    Spain enters the tournament in Qatar with the third-youngest squad among the 32 nations, with an average age of 25.3, after the United States and Ghana.

    More than half of the squad is 25 years old or younger, with six players at 20 or younger and playing in their first World Cup.

    Pedri, Gavi and Fati are likely to start against Costa Rica. The other youngsters picked by Luis Enrique nclude Ferran Torres, Yéremy Pino, Eric García, Hugo Guillamón and Alejandro Balde.

    “What I am most surprised by is their daring, the way they go for the game and don’t get rattled,” said defender Cesar Azpilicueta, one of the most veteran players in the squad along with Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets.

    Spain made the final of the Nations League and the semifinals of the European Championship last year.

    Their last major title came at Euro 2012. Earlier this year they qualified for the Final Four of the Nations League for a second straight time.

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