MADRID (AP)With three World Cup qualifying matches coming up, Spain coach Luis Enrique made seven changes Thursday from the team that reached the semifinals of the European Championship.
Among those missing were four players who also played with Spain at the Tokyo Olympics – Pedri Gonzalez, Pau Torres, Mikel Oyarzabal and Dani Olmo. Defender Eric Garcia and goalkeeper Unai Simon were included after playing in both previous competitions.
”I think it’s important for them to get some rest now,” Luis Enrique said of the players left out. ”Eric was called up because he didn’t play much last season, and Unai had some time off before Euros.”
The three other players not called up from the Euro 2020 squad were Diego Llorente, Fabian Ruiz and Thiago Alcantara.
Veteran captain Sergio Ramos, who was left out of Euro 2020 and has been recovering from injury, also wasn’t included for the September qualifiers against Sweden, Georgia and Kosovo.
”Unfortunately, the situation is the same as before, he hasn’t been able to play in any matches,” Luis Enrique said about the new Paris Saint-Germain player.
Again there aren’t any Real Madrid players in the squad announced by Luis Enrique, the former Barcelona player and coach.
The main surprise in the list was forward Abel Ruiz from Portuguese club Sporting Braga. He was a regular in Spain’s youth squads but had never been called up for the main national team.
”He finished the season well,” Luis Enrique said. ”He is a very interesting player, with a lot of history in the youth squads.”
The players not in Euro 2020 added to the squad were defenders Raul Albiol and Inigo Martinez, midfielders Mikel Merino, Carlos Soler and Brais Mendez, and forward Pablo Fornals.
Some of them were among the players in the alternative squad called up by Luis Enrique when there were positive tests in the main team ahead of Euro 2020.
Spain lost to eventual champion Italy in the semifinals of Euro 2020. Among those returning from the European competition are captain Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Cesar Azpilicueta, Koke Resurreccion, Alvaro Morata, Adama Traore and Gerard Moreno.
Spain leads Group B of World Cup qualifying with seven points, one more than Sweden, which has a game in hand.
Luis Enrique also commented after Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he would like to coach a national team after his contract with the English club ends in 2023.
”Hopefully he can be Spain’s coach. I would love for that to happen,” Luis Enrique said. ”There couldn’t be a better coach for Spain.”
Goalkeepers: Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), David De Gea (Manchester United), Robert Sanchez (Brighton)
Defenders: Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Jose Gaya (Valencia), Inigo Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Eric Garcia (Manchester City), Raul Albiol (Villarreal), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid)
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri Hernandez (Manchester City), Brais Mendez (Celta Vigo), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Carlos Soler (Valencia), Koke Resurreccion (Atletico Madrid)
Forwards: Pablo Fornals (West Ham), Abel Ruiz (Sporting Braga), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Adama Traore (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain)
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