Promising Spain brings back the ‘tiki-taka’ at the World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — It was a World Cup victory fit for a king. Exactly.

King Felipe VI was among those congratulating Spain in Qatar for their 7-0 World Cup win over Costa Rica. On the opening Wednesday, La Roja put on a masterclass in possession and effective attacking as they reintroduced the tiki-taka and got off to a good start in their quest for a second world title.

The historic victory boosted expectations of Spain’s chances of succeeding in Qatar and winning soccer’s most coveted trophy for the first time since 2010, when Xavi and Andrés Iniesta led the style of possession that wowed the soccer world.

“Keep singing,” King Felipe VI told the players as he entered the Spain dressing room at the Al Thumama Stadium after the match. “We enjoyed it as much as anyone. More than the result, it was a pleasure to watch your game.”

Spain is led by a couple of teenage sensations who add some kick to the tiki-taka style. Gavi and Pedri, along with a group of other talented youngsters making their World Cup debuts, provide the pace and energy to provide the style’s constant quick passing and ball control.

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“The idea was for all the players in midfield to have a lot of touches and from there the quality of our players dominated,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said.

Spain completed a record 1,003 passes in 90 minutes on Wednesday and finished with 75% of possession. Costa Rica scored 17 tries to nil.

“Our only goal is to keep control of the game and for that we need to have the ball,” said Luis Enrique. “The opponent gets nervous and finds it difficult to find a place. We were exceptional with our pressure.”

Gavi, 18, and Pedri, 19, controlled the tempo of the match alongside veteran Sergio Busquets, the only remaining member of the 2010 World Cup-winning squad. Up front, 22-year-old Ferran Torres, along with Dani Olmo and Marco Asensio, worked aggressively to gain possession quickly.

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Gavi, who was named the most valuable player and scored in the 74th minute, became the youngest World Cup scorer since Pele in 1958: “It was a match where we came out strong and went for the win from the first minute,” he said. .

“He’s a unique player,” Luis Enrique said of Gavi. “He is 18 years old, but he has the character of an experienced football player. We are very happy to have him. I think he will be one of the stars of world football.”

Spain have the third-youngest squad at this year’s tournament, but Luis Enrique is not worried his players will be overconfident heading into Sunday’s highly-anticipated game against four-time world champions Germany. Germany lost 2-1 to Japan in their Group E opener on Wednesday.

“Praise can wear you down, but this team will not relax,” Luis Enrique said. “I know that because I see how they practice and I can tell you that they’re not going to quit. “Germany is a strong country and they can beat us, but we will play the same way.”

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Spain, who have not won their World Cup opener since 2006, still had Xavi and Iniesta when they won their last major title at the European Championships in 2012. It will now be up to the likes of Pedri and Gavi to develop the new ‘tiki-taka’ and lead Spain’s fight for the World Cup trophy.

So far so good, it even impressed the king.

“It’s great to get off to such a good start,” King Felipe VI told the players, wearing a Gavi shirt signed by the entire squad, before leaving the team’s dressing room.


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