“Spain’s veterans learn from the wonderful Pedri”
DOHA: Spanish midfielder Pedri only turned 20 last week, but teammate Koke said even the team’s veteran players are learning from him at the World Cup.
Pedri burst into the limelight in 2020 with Barcelona as a teenager and played a key role for Spain in last summer’s European Championship. The midfielder has been one of the most impressive World Cup players to date, featuring in midfield in Spain’s 7-0 destruction of Costa Rica and remaining consistent in the heavyweight match against Germany, a 1-1 draw.
Teammate Javi, 18, also impressed in Qatar alongside Pedri in midfield, and Cook praised Barcelona’s creative duo. “The two are making magic, their level is amazing given their age,” Cook said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Pedri is amazing, you might not think it, but the older players learn from the younger ones, he does things that not many of us do on the pitch.
In his third World Cup final, the 30-year-old Koke said he and veterans, including Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Cesar Azpilicueta, were giving their younger teammates support in return.
“All that unity makes for such a strong, healthy group of players,” Cook said. “Young players have to be excited and that brings nerves. They have to enjoy it and be calm. The older players are trying to achieve that calm, and we have to take advantage of these moments.” Koke could have the chance to start in the final group game of the FIFA World Cup against Japan on Thursday, qualifying for the last 16 at stake.
If Luis Enrique’s team wins at least a point, it will guarantee them progression to the knockout stage, while a win will guarantee them first place. If Spain finish top of their group and advance to the quarter-finals, they will be in line to take on Brazil if Tite’s side, favorites to win the tournament, do the same.
But Cook said Spain would not try to game the system and avoid the five-time World Cup winner. “The only strategy is to go out and beat Japan,” Cook said.
“We’ll see if we play Brazil or not. We don’t fear anyone and we respect everyone.” Koke appeared as a substitute in the first two matches of the tournament, but changes may appear in the final group match.
Sergio Busquets has been booked against Germany and will be at risk of being suspended for a potential round of 16 clash if he sees another yellow card against Japan, opening the door for Koke to feature.
Busquets’ natural replacement Rodri Hernandez has played the first two matches in central defense and has been training away from the main group on Tuesday on a stationary bike. A Spanish Football Federation source told reporters that Jaffe, who suffered a knock to the knee against Germany, had been cycling individually, but both players are expected to return to full training on Wednesday.