Cesar Azpilicueta says Spain have a ‘brilliant opportunity’ to replicate 2010 World Cup success in Qatar… but sees a stern test in England and calls Gareth Southgate’s side one of the ‘strongest teams in the tournament’
Cesar Azpilicueta is back in Qatar where he made his Spain debut and hoping to close the circle on a glittering career by winning the biggest prize of all.
Chelsea captain Azpilicueta has won every trophy available during a decade in English football, completing the set in the Middle East, where he won the FIFA Club World Cup, earlier this year, in Abu Dhabi.
‘I want to get another one, this one if I can,’ said 33-year-old Azpilicueta. ‘I made my debut for Spain against Uruguay here in Qatar, in Doha, in 2013, so it would be a good story for me to win the World Cup here.
Cesar Azpilicueta says Spain have a brilliant opportunity to build on their Euro 2020 success in Qatar
‘We have a brilliant opportunity. We have an amazing group. We will try to impose our rhythm. Then, it’s a tournament where you cannot make any mistakes. One where you have to start well and small details make the difference. We will try our best and of course I’d love to add this trophy to my cabinet.’
Spain’s World Cup record has been disappointing since they were crowned champions for the first time in South Africa, in 2010. They crashed out at the group stage in Brazil in 2014 and lost in the last 16 in Russia, four years later.
But they are making good progress with a young team under Luis Enrique. They impressed on their way to the last four of Euro 2020, where they were beaten by Italy on penalties.
Luis Enrique’s team will look to bounce back from a disappointing Round of 16 exit against hosts Russia in 2018
‘The last two World Cup experiences were not good but football gives us one more opportunity,’ said Azpilicueta. ‘The team is in a good place. We have young players. That’s the main difference this time. I have more years in football. We all have to work together to achieve the maximum. Everybody has a role.
‘The young players have good motivation, they are in good shape and they have a kind of courage. This is what I am most impressed by, the courage they have to always go forward, after their aims, to achieve what they want.
‘They have a very high level of motivation and they know how to understand the strategy of play. Some of them have already played in the Champions League, in the World Cup and the Euros. Even though they are young they have played at this level.’
Barcelona starlets Pedri, Gavi and Ansu Fati are among the players carrying the hopes of the next generation for Spain. Nineteen-year-old Alejandro Balde, a left back from Barcelona, has been called up as a late replacement for Jose Gaya, injured in training, earlier this week.
The Chelsea captain was part of the Spain side that finished runners-up in the Confederations Cup in 2013
Among them are seasoned veterans such as Azpilicueta, Sergio Busquets and Alvaro Morata. ‘I have been here a lot of years,’ smiled the Chelsea captain, who went to the last World Cup but did not play.
‘We want to do our best, we know that every player would love to be here, so we have to make the most of it. We all begin with zero and we have the opportunity to go forward.
‘The World Cup is the biggest trophy so it’s an important opportunity but we also know the last two were not good results. We will try to win but we want people to be proud of our tournament.’
He expects England to among the teams who could challenge Spain for the title, and added: ‘England have shown their progression in these kinds of tournaments, in the semi-final of the World Cup in 2018 and the final in the Euros.
‘They have a strong group, a talented group, a young group, so I think they are one of the strongest teams in the tournament.’