Spain this afternoon kick off their World Cup campaign with a Group E tussle against Costa Rica in Al Thumama.
The 2010 champions have had two disappointing campaigns in which they were knocked out at the group stage in Brazil and then failed to progress past the last 16 in Russia, while there was also semi-final misfortune at the European Championships last summer. .
However, Luis Enrique’s side are determined to make a statement and return to their best tournament form in Qatar, with much talk of their controversial team selection which omitted the likes of record signing Sergio Ramos but included Barcelona’s Ansu Fati.
Spain will be without Jose Gayo for the tournament after the Valencia left-back sprained his ankle in training and was replaced by Barca youngster Alejandro Balde, who could be needed to start this week’s first leg with Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal also struggling with diseases. .
Costa Rica have no similar injury concerns ahead of their fifth World Cup appearance since 1990 and third in a row following June’s intercontinental play-off win over New Zealand.
Veteran Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas remains their star man and earned his 108th senior cap against Spain, with former Arsenal striker Joel Campbell – who now plays his club football in Mexico with Leon – leading the charge.
Predicted Spain XI (4-3-3):
Simon; Carvajal, Laporte, Pau Torres, Alba; Busquets, Gavi, Pedri; Ferran Torres, Fati, Morata.
Predicted Costa Rica XI (4-4-2):
Navas; Oviedo, Calvo, Duarte, Fuller; Bennette, Tejeda, Borges, Torres; Contreras, Campbell.