Spain celebrate the rise of the Gavi ‘volcano’ ahead of the World Cup

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Gavi of Spain vies for the ball with Czech Republic’s Vaclav Jemelka, right, during the UEFA Nations League football match between Spain and Czech Republic at La Rosaleda stadium in Malaga, Spain, on Sunday, June 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Jose Breton)

PA

Spain will enter the summer break top of their Nations League group, and knowing that teenager Gavi Páez has what it takes to qualify for the World Cup.

Gavi, 17, enjoyed his chance with the national team this month, helping to calm some of the criticism that surrounded his surprise call last September.

Many had criticized Spain coach Luis Enrique for picking a teenager who barely played for Barcelona’s main team back then. Many said it was too early to give the young midfielder a place in the national team.

After Gavi’s four appearances this month, it hasn’t been difficult for Luis Enrique to defend his choice.

“When Gavi is on the ground, it’s like an erupting volcano. It’s hard not to fall in love with him,” Luis Enrique said after Spain’s 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Sunday, a result that left ‘La Roja’ top of their League group. of Nations.

“Everyone wants to see him play,” said the coach. “It’s impossible that there was a single fan at La Rosaleda (stadium) who didn’t like him. He can play between the lines like no one else, he’s always in a good position, he’s not afraid you’re welcome, he can score, pass, defend…”

Gavi came off the bench in the 59th minute against the Czechs and helped score the team’s second goal in Malaga on Sunday. He had been in the starting lineup for the first three matches, playing well in all of them.

The young playmaker made his senior debut in the Nations League semi-finals last season when Spain beat Italy in October. Gavi also started the final against France, when Spain lost.

Since then, he’s been a regular starter for Luis Enrique, playing in World Cup qualifiers and friendlies.

The coach’s praise on Sunday came after he said Gavi had a lot to improve ‘on and off the pitch’.

Luis Enrique didn’t elaborate, but said Gavi was smart and knew exactly what he was talking about. On Sunday, the coach said the message “is valid for all players”.

“All players can improve on and off the pitch,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in this group or not.”

Gavi are in the midst of contract negotiations with Barcelona, ​​with club president Joan Laporta recently saying they are close to reaching an agreement.

Gavi is one of many youngsters who have gained space with the national team under Luis Enrique, along with 19-year-old Ansu Fati and Pedri González.

On Sunday, Luis Enrique also heaped praise on Marco Asensio, who has also performed well in Nations League games this month despite not getting many minutes with Real Madrid at the course of the season.

“There isn’t much doubt about Marco,” said Luis Enrique. “We love him and he knows it. Every time he played he helped both offensively and defensively. The handicap is that there are other players who are not there at the moment but who can also help like him in this position.”

Spain opened Group 2 of League A with draws against Portugal and the Czech Republic, then prevailed in Switzerland before beating the Czechs at home on Sunday.

With two group games to go in September before the World Cup, Spain have eight points, one more than 2019 Nations League champions Portugal, who lost to Switzerland 1-0 on Sunday.

Only group winners advance to the Final Four.

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