Rising Spain will look to justify their title as potential dark horses for the title at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as Luis Enrqiue puts his side in Group E action knowing they can’t get off to a slow start.
La Roja had a trip to Qatar in good form, losing only once in the last 10 matches – a series that helped them reach the UEFA Nations League final.
Under Enrique – who returned to lead the national team after an absence following the tragic death of his young daughter – the 2010 champions have re-established themselves as a real force, led by exciting young talents like Ferran Torres and Pedri.
In theory, they have enough power to advance deep into the knockout stages of the tournament, but in the so-called “group of death” with Germany and Japan, and today’s opponent Costa Rica, they cannot afford any slip-ups.
Meanwhile, Los Ticos know something about upsetting the established order, having topped a World Cup group in 2014 that included Uruguay, England and Italy.
Spain left-back Jose Gaya is out injured; in his place, promising Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde has been called up. Cesar Azpilicueta, a defender, is said to be in good health after sustaining an injury shortly before halftime. When everyone was prepared for the challenge with Costa Rica, the entire La Roja team did not have to worry too much about fitness. Unai Simons, a trusted keeper of Enrique’s, is expected to start in goal. Dani Carvajal and Jordi Alba are set to play at full-back, while Pau Torres and Aymeric Laporte will play central defenders in a 4-3-3 formation. The trio of Gavi, Sergio Busquets, Pedri of Barcelona will play in the midfield. In addition, Alvaro Morata is expected to combine with Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres in attack.
Keylor Navas’ back illness is a concern for head coach Suarez, but he guesses he will be able to play; otherwise, he has a perfectly healthy team at his disposal. Keylor Navas is the goalkeeper of Costa Rica, who also use a 4-3-3 formation. Carlos Martinez and Bryan Oviedo play at full-back, while centre-backs Francisco Calvo and Oscar Duarte are expected to form a four-man defence. With Celso Borges, who has made 155 caps, on the right flank and Anthony Contreras in charge of attack, former Arsenal striker Joel Campbell will take over on the left. Campbell has scored 25 goals in 119 games.
Spain’s possible starting lineup:
Simon; Carvajal, Laporte, P Torres, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, Gavi; F Torres, Morata, Fati
Costa Rica’s possible starting lineup:
Navas; C Martinez, Calvo, Duarte, Oviedo; Tejeda, Bennette, G Torres; Borges, Contreras, Campbell
Spain’s 3 – 1 Costa Rica