Promising Spain bring ‘tiki-taka’ back to World Cup

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

King Felipe VI was among those who congratulated Spain in Qatar after their 7-0 loss to Costa Rica in Wednesday’s World Cup opener, when ‘La Roja’ reintroduced the ‘tiki- taka” and staged a masterclass of ball possession and effective attacking to get off to a good start in his quest for a second world title.

The historic win has raised expectations for Spain’s chances of succeeding in Qatar and lifting football’s most coveted trophy for the first time since 2010, when Xavi and Andrés Iniesta were leaders in the style of ball possession that surprised the world of football.

“Keep singing,” King Felipe VI told the players as he entered the Spanish dressing room at Al Thumama Stadium after the match. “We enjoyed it, like everyone else. More than the result, it was a pleasure to see you play.

Spain is ruled by a few teenage sensations who have added some punch to the ‘tiki-taka’ style. Gavi and Pedri, along with a group of other talented youngsters making their World Cup debuts, provide speed and energy to go along with the consistent quick passing and ball control inherent in the style.

“The idea was that all players in midfield had a lot of touches, and from there the quality of our players prevailed,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique.

Spain completed a record 1,003 assists in a 90-minute game on Wednesday and finished with 75% possession of the ball. He had 17 attempts to zero by Costa Rica.

“Our only goal is to control the game all the time, and to do that you have to have the ball,” said Luis Enrique. “The rival is frustrated and struggling to find space. We were exceptional with the way we exerted pressure.

Gavi, 18, and Pedri, 19, controlled the pace of the match with veteran Sergio Busquets, the only remaining member of the 2010 World Cup-winning squad. Up front were Ferran Torres, 22, as well as Dani Olmo and Marco Asensio, worked aggressively on the ball to quickly regain possession.

“It was a game in which we came out strong and took the win from the first minute,” said Gavi, who was named the most valuable player and scored in the 74th minute to become the youngest goalscorer in the World Cup since Pelé in 1958. .

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

Spain have the third-youngest squad in this year’s tournament, but Luis Enrique isn’t worried about his players’ overconfidence ahead of the highly anticipated game against four-time world champions Germany on Sunday. The Germans lost 2-1 to Japan in their Group E opener on Wednesday.

“Praise can weaken you, but this team will not relax,” said Luis Enrique. “I know because I see how they practice and I can tell you they won’t give up. Germany are a power and they can beat us, but we will play the same way.

Spain, who had not won a World Cup opener since 2006, still had Xavi and Iniesta when they won their last major title at the 2012 European Championship. It will now be up to Pedri and Gavi to make thrive on the new “tiki-taka” and lead Spain in their quest for the World Cup trophy.

So far so good, even the king is impressed.

“It’s good to start like this,” King Felipe VI told the players before leaving the team locker room with a Gavi shirt autographed by the whole team.


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