Spain's World Cup veterans learning from spectacular Pedri, says Koke
Doha, Nov 29, 2022 (AFP) - Spain midfielder Pedri only turned 20 last week but his team-mate Koke says even the squad'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 at the Euro last summer.
The midfielder has been one of the World Cup's most impressive players so far, running the midfield in Spain's 7-0 destruction of Costa Rica and holding his own in the heavyweight clash against Germany, a 1-1 draw.
His club colleague Gavi, 18, has also impressed in Qatar alongside Pedri in midfield, and Koke praised the creative Barcelona duo.
"The two of them make magic, their level is spectacular given their age," Koke told a press conference Tuesday.
"Pedri is spectacular, you might not think so but the older players learn from the younger ones, he does things that many of us don't do on the pitch.
"I learn from him, seeing the good things he does, it's spectacular playing beside Pedri."
The 30-year-old Koke, at his third World Cup, also said he and the squad's other veterans, including Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Cesar Azpilicueta, were offering their younger team-mates support in return.
"All this unity makes for such a strong and healthy group of players," said Koke.
"The young players have to be excited and that brings nerves. They have to enjoy it, and be calm.
"The older players try to bring that calmness, we have to take advantage of these moments."
Koke may have a chance to start in La Roja's final World Cup group match against Japan on Thursday, with qualification for the last 16 on the line.
If Luis Enrique's side earn at least a point they will be guaranteed to progress to the knock-out phase, while victory would guarantee them earn top spot.
Should Spain finish top of their group and progress to the quarter-finals, they would be in line to face Brazil if Tite's side, favourites to win the tournament, do the same.
However Koke said Spain would not be trying to game the system and avoid the five-time World Cup winners.
"The only strategy is to go out and win against Japan," said Koke.
"We'll see if we end up facing Brazil or not. We don't fear anybody and we respect everybody."
Koke has featured as a substitute in the opening two matches of the tournament, but changes may beckon in the final group match.
Sergio Busquets was booked against Germany and would be in danger of suspension for a prospective last-16 tie if he saw another yellow card against Japan, opening the door for Koke to feature.
Busquets' natural replacement Rodri Hernandez has played the first two games at centre-back and was training away from the main group on Tuesday, on a stationary bicycle.
Gavi, who suffered a knock to the knee against Germany, was also cycling individually, but both players are expected to return to full training on Wednesday, a Spanish football federation source told reporters.