Pedri and Gavi combination marks out Spain’s strength as World Cup challengers



Rotation of positions, recycling of possession, relentless attempts to pass beyond and between the scurrying and increasingly desperate shirts of defenders.

And almost all of it filters through these two in the middle of the pitch.

There is, even at this stage, an almost cliche aspect to referring to both Pedri and Gavi together; their age group, their club, their role in the team and their relative strengths all mark them out as being naturally twinned, the modern Spain’s version of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

And yet there’s still truth in pointing out how well they work in tandem, just as there’s truth in highlighting their differences.

Pedri is the metronome, the constant recipient in tight spaces, able to pass first time and spread play in every direction.

He is irrepressible in possession, with the vision and execution of any elite playmaker, yet also tenacious, diligent and selfless off the ball.

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Gavi is more possessed of, or perhaps only more inclined to show, the close control of a born dribbler, evading tackles with twists, turns and stepovers before his inevitably accurate pass to a teammate in space.

This appearance makes him Spain’s youngest-ever player at the World Cup; his controlled and inch-perfect volley with 15 minutes to play further writes him into the record books as their youngest-ever scorer.

Picking a favourite between the two is as pointless as any of Costa Rica’s defensive intentions on the day; Spain have them both, Spain play them both the manager trusts both implicitly.

On this occasion Pedri was afforded a mere 56 minutes, with the job more than done by that point. It was naturally a sub made with other games in mind rather than performance level. Greater challenges, and more important matches, lie ahead.

It should also be noted that, in this game at least, they benefited from the lack of defensive burden placed on Sergio Busquets, himself still a master of the pass through the lines with the ball at his feet. Tracking runners is the more difficult aspect of his job these days and both Germany and Japan will surely look to make him do that far more often, but Costa Rica offered nothing in this regard.

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All of this only serves to underline that while Spain were levels above their opponents on the day, far more will be required in their remaining group games and beyond, if they are to go as deep in the tournament as many expect.

With Pedri and Gavi pulling the strings, there’s no reason to suspect anything other than that is exactly what this team will be capable of doing – especially if they can retain the clinical edge showed in this one-sided encounter.

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