Spain have been one of the standout performers at the World Cup so far — and look like real contenders to win the tournament.
La Roja sit top of Group E after a 7-0 rout of Costa Rica and a 1-1 draw with Germany despite notable omissions such as Thiago Alcantara, David de Gea and Sergio Ramos, who head coach Luis Enrique was criticised for leaving out.
He instead opted for youth, with Barcelona whizkids Pedri and Gavi playing either side of veteran Sergio Busquets — and the youngsters have been thriving.
Ahead of their clash with Japan, we look at how Spain’s midfield maestros are taking the tournament by storm.
Gavi gets going
2022 Kopa Trophy winner Gavi is enjoying a fine season at Barca, beating out the likes of Jamal Musiala and Jude Bellingham to the coveted individual accolade.
On his World Cup debut, he fired a sensational volley past Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas, making him the youngest player to score in the competition for any nation since Pele in 1958.
Gavi is constantly on the move — whether making a run into the box or chasing down opposition players, he is always looking to get involved in play.
He also possesses both exceptional technical ability and an eye for a pass — which he demonstrated against Costa Rica when he lofted a ball over their back line and into Dani Olmo for Spain’s first goal.
It is easy to see why the La Masia academy graduate is so highly rated in Catalonia — he is surely destined for a supremely successful footballing career.
Gavi has been an influential figure for Spain at Qatar 2022
Pedri has cemented his position in Spain’s squad after helping the side reach the semi-finals at the European Championship last summer, where he won Young Player of the Tournament.
He operates on the left side of their midfield three, using his vision and technique to pick out incisive passes in the attacking third or recycle possession and keep play ticking.
No player in Group E has completed more passes in the final third (41) or through-balls (two) than the Blaugrana ace.
Luis Enrique will again entrust Pedri with the task of picking the lock against Japan as Spain look to confirm a place in the knockout rounds.
Barcelona boss Xavi was full of praise for Gavi and Pedri after their recent performances on the international stage — and believes the pair’s future is bright.
He said: “They [Gavi and Pedri] are extraordinary players and have everything to mark an era.
“Gavi is a leader, he oozes quality wherever he goes. He is extraordinary. And Pedri is a marvel in technique.
“They make a difference with us [Barcelona] and also with the national team.”
Gavi is unpredictable, causing chaos among opposition defenders, while Pedri is poised and composed — and both ooze quality and class.