The young Spain players at the heart of coach Luis Enrique`s new-look side make their global debut on Wednesday when they face the experienced veterans of Costa Rica in their Qatar World Cup opening match.
With captain Sergio Busquets the lone survivor of the Spain team that won the 2010 tournament in South Africa under then coach Vicente del Bosque, Luis Enrique has blooded a new generation of players in preparation for Qatar. Three years into the restructuring of the national side after dismal showings in Brazil in 2014 and Russia in 2018, there are signs that the former Barcelona and Real Madrid star is building something that will be a force for years to come.
Barcelona midfielders Pedri, 19, Gavi, 18, plus their Catalan club teammate Ferran Torres, 22, are three of the young faces in the fresh-faced Spain side.
Luis Enrique – who led the Reds to the semi-finals of the Euros last year where they were eliminated by Italy on penalties – has picked 14 players aged 25 or under, and the average age of the squad is the third youngest among the 32 teams in Qatar. “We are a team that still has a long way to go. We are very young,” Torres told reporters on Sunday.
Asked if the team felt the need to prove themselves by finishing the tournament in a strong position, Torres stressed that Spain is still developing.
“We are not obligated to finish somewhere, we just try our best to get results and if we can keep going. If we don’t get results, we go out and keep our heads high. we are young. “
The situation is almost the opposite for Costa Rica, who is participating in its sixth World Cup. Six team members who took part in the 2014 campaign in which Costa Rica qualified from the “group of death” at the expense of Italy and England are now over 30, including 37-year-old striker Brian Lewis.
Colombia’s Luis Fernando Suarez’s side are known for their consistency, conceding just eight goals in qualifying and could threaten his 33-year-old Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta if he starts. Known for its counter-attack ability.
But the aging of some of Costa Rica’s most important players poses challenges beyond the physical demands of the game: goalkeeper Keylor Navas has been at the side since losing to Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma. The club’s Paris Saint-Germain haven’t made an official game in his five months. Spain and Costa Rica will face Germany and Japan in Group E.
Spain vs Costa Rica: Head to Head battles
Costa Rica finished fourth in the CONCACAF qualifiers with a decisive win over New Zealand to qualify for the World Cup. The Central American team beat Nigeria 2-0 to her last week and will have to work hard to achieve a similar result in this match.
Spain, meanwhile, placed their group at the top of their qualifying campaign and called up a young team for the World Cup. La Friaroja worked well under Luis Enrique and beat Jordan 3–1 in the final game.
Spain has an impressive record against Costa Rica, with him winning two of his three matches between the two teams and another one of his ending in a draw. Spain have never faced Costa Rica in the FIFA World Cup and are undefeated in three friendly matches against CONCACAF.
He has scored a total of 12 goals in his three games so far between both teams, averaging four goals per game.
Spain qualified for her 16th World Cup and her 12th in a row. Only Brazil, Argentina and Germany have longer active streaks. His 2010 World Cup victory for Spain was the only of his 13 attempts to have the Iberian giants reach the semi-finals of the competition.
Spain has scored 99 goals in the FIFA World Cup and he could score 100 this week. His first goal at the World Cup came in 1934.