Spain betting on youngsters to succeed at the World Cup

Oct 25, 2022, 2:23 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2022, 2:27 am
FILE - Swiss Remo Freuler, left, fights for a header with Spain's midfielder Sergio Busquets, durin...

FILE - Swiss Remo Freuler, left, fights for a header with Spain's midfielder Sergio Busquets, during the UEFA Nations League group A2 soccer match between Spain and Switzerland at the Romareda stadium in Zaragoza, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP, File)

(Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP, File)

              FILE - Barcelona's Gavi Paez, left, and Cadiz's Jens Jonsson compete for the ball during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Cadiz and Barcelona at the Nuevo Mirandilla stadium in Cadiz, Spain, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti, File)
            
              FILE - Spain's Jordi Alba, right, challenges for the ball with Switzerland's Silvan Widmer during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Spain and Switzerland, at the Benito Villamarin Stadium, in Seville, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Breton, File)
            
              FILE - Spain's head coach Luis Enrique holds the ball during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Portugal and Spain at the Municipal Stadium in Braga, Portugal, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira, File)
            
              FILE - Spain's Nico Williams, centre, in action during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Spain and Switzerland, at the Benito Villamarin Stadium, in Seville, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Breton, File)
            
              FILE - Spain's Sergio Busquets, right, controls the ball ahead Switzerland's Granit Xhaka during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Spain and Switzerland, at the Benito Villamarin Stadium, in Seville, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Breton, File)
            
              FILE - Spain's Alvaro Morata celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Portugal and Spain at the Municipal Stadium in Braga, Portugal, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira, File)
            
              FILE - Swiss Remo Freuler, left, fights for a header with Spain's midfielder Sergio Busquets, during the UEFA Nations League group A2 soccer match between Spain and Switzerland at the Romareda stadium in Zaragoza, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP, File)

MADRID (AP) — Spain will look a bit different at this year’s World Cup.

Don’t expect to see veterans like Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué, Andrés Iniesta or David Silva in its squad.

Instead, look for youngsters like Pedri González, Gavi Páez and Nico Williams.

Spain is going really young to try to win soccer’s biggest prize and lift a major trophy for the first time since 2012.

Pedri is 19 and has already established himself with the national team. Gavi, 18, not long ago became the youngest player to debut and score with “La Roja” at 17, and just recently won the Kopa Trophy for best under-21 player, an award that Pedri won the previous season.

Williams turned 20 in July, and has quickly gained space after impressing in his first two matches in the lead up to the World Cup.

There are also 19-year-olds Yeremy Pino and Ansu Fati, though the latter didn’t make it to the squad recently because of his lack of playing with Barcelona.

Nearly half of the team’s squad in Qatar is set to be 25 or younger.

“The youngsters have incredible talent and can add a lot to the squad,” 30-year-old forward Pablo Sarabia told The Associated Press.

Spain coach Luis Enrique, going into his first World Cup in the position, has not been shy about calling up youngsters but will balance it out with the experience of players like Sergio Busquets, César Azpilicueta, Koke Resurrección, Dani Carvajal and Jordi Alba — all 30 or older.

“We have a group of youngsters and some veterans who we feel can face any rival,” Luis Enrique said.

SEARCH FOR FORWARDS

Luis Enrique has apparently narrowed his list of forwards, with Álvaro Morata, Ferran Torres, Marco Asensio, Pablo Sarabia and Pino having their sports practically secured.

Making late pushes are Williams and Borja Iglesias, while losing out will likely be veteran Iago Aspas, the often-injured Gerard Moreno and Fati, who has not played often with Barcelona.

Raúl de Tomás is probably out as well because he will not get to play for new club Rayo Vallecano until January.

Luis Enrique said he has a list of 40 players that could play for the national team but is not expected to take the allowed 26 for the World Cup because he doesn’t like to have too many players in the squad who won’t get a significant number of minutes.

RECENT SUCCESSES

Spain hasn’t won a title since the 2012 European Championship but has done well recently by reaching the semifinals of Euro 2020 and the final of last year’s Nations League, losing to Italy and France, respectively.

Few had expected Spain to succeed in those tournaments as it transitioned between generations, but Luis Enrique put together a competitive squad.

The team will enter this year’s World Cup boosted by a victory at Portugal in the last round of the group stage of the Nations League to advance to the competition’s Final Four for the second consecutive year.

2018 TRAUMA

Spain’s last World Cup appearance was marked by the embarrassing firing of coach Julen Lopetegui only days before the team’s debut.

Lopetegui had led Spain to a 20-run unbeaten run after Euro 2016, but he was hastily removed from his post for accepting the Real Madrid coaching job without telling Spanish soccer federation officials in advance.

The sudden change in command proved costly as Spain lost to host Russia on penalties in the round of 16.

In 2014 in Brazil, Spain did even worse, failing to make it past the group stage.

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

___

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

South Korea's Son Heung-min applauds the fans after losing 4-1 during the World Cup round of 16 soc...
Associated Press

South Korea looks to youth after World Cup loss to Brazil

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — South Korea lost in the round of 16 of the World Cup and then lost its coach. The team was beaten by five-time champion Brazil 4-1 on Monday. After the match, South Korea coach Paulo Bento announced that he was stepping down to end his four-year stint. The Portuguese coach said […]
1 day ago
Brazil's Neymar, from right, celebrates with team mates Lucas Paqueta, Raphinha and Vinicius Junior...
Associated Press

Brazil dancing again after big win at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The joy — and the dancing — are back for five-time champion Brazil at the World Cup. The big win over South Korea on Monday secured Brazil a berth in the quarterfinals in Qatar. It also restored the team’s confidence after a tumultuous start to the tournament in which the Seleçao […]
1 day ago
Paulo Dybala runs during a training session of Argentina's national soccer team in Doha, Saturday, ...
Associated Press

Paulo Dybala, the Serie A standout not needed by Argentina

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Paulo Dybala posted a photo of himself on Instagram laughing along with his Argentina teammate Lionel Messi, with the accompanying words: “We carry on with a smile! Let’s go.” Argentina might be getting ever closer to a place in the World Cup final but, on a purely personal level, the tournament […]
1 day ago
Maryland head coach Kevin Willard signals a play in to his team during the second half of an NCAA c...
Associated Press

No. 13 Maryland off to fast start with marquee games ahead

Kevin Willard believed his new Maryland team would get off to a good start. But this has been a bit more than even Willard expected early in his tenure after a successful run at Seton Hall. “I didn’t envision this,” Willard said. “I’m not going to lie.” The Terrapins (8-0, 1-0 Big Ten) made the […]
1 day ago
FILE - Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors holds a sign in the dressing room in Hershey, ...
Associated Press

Analysis: In the NBA, 100 points no longer assures anything

If the NBA has a magic number, it’s 100. Wilt Chamberlain’s single-game scoring record. A perfect shooting percentage. And the rule pretty much seemed to be that if a team scored 100 points in a game, it probably was going to walk off the floor as a winner. Not anymore. Put simply, 100 doesn’t guarantee […]
1 day ago
Deion Sanders speaks after being introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Col...
Associated Press

Deion Sanders’ arrival swipes buzz from bungling Broncos

DENVER (AP) — Deion Sanders sauntered into the Arrow Touchdown Club for what felt more like an old-fashioned tent revival than a news conference to introduce the University of Colorado’s splashy new hire of “Coach Prime” as its new head football coach. At that very moment Sunday afternoon, the Denver Broncos were predictably blowing another […]
1 day ago
Spain betting on youngsters to succeed at the World Cup