As Spain’s head coach, Luis Enrique faced the challenge of a transition and laying the foundations for the next decade. The Asturian coach, who will decide his future after the World Cup in Qatar, has not only achieved this but has also done so by competing at the highest level.
In his last three tournaments with La Roja, one European Championship and two Nations Leagues, he reached at least the semi-finals. He got into the final of the first Nations League and a penalty deprived him of getting to the final of the Euros.
The former Barcelona boss is now heading to the World Cup with three players under the age of 21 who were key in the victory over Portugal on Tuesday. The late win in Braga booked Spain a place in the Nations League finals to be held next June. Pedri (19 ), Gavi (18) and Nico Williams (20) are the three who came off the bench to make the much-needed impact after a poor first half.
Pedri and Gavi are already established under Luis Enrique and play regularly for Xavi at Barcelona. The midfielder from the Canaries is the most special player in terms of talent. Gavi, also an outstanding young competitor in midfield, will likely join Pedri and Sergio Busquets to form La Roja’s midfield three at this winter’s World Cup.
In Braga, Lucho turned to Busquets, Pedri and Gavi to turn the game around. Spain, in control from the start, found the balance with Busquets, who came on after the break. And on the hour mark, with the introduction of Pedri and Gavi, they caused the home side more problems.
The introduction of Nico Williams gave Spain momentum. The Athletic Club forward came on for a struggling Ferran Torres with just over a quarter of an hour to go. Williams was a real handful on the wing, tormenting the Portuguese defence in a brief cameo on the left and right.
Williams played a key role in Spain’s goal. After a cross by Dani Carvajal from the right, Nico headed across goal for Álvaro Morata to score from close range. The younger Williams has earned his place in Qatar after making the most of the 44 minutes that Luis Enrique has given him over the last two games.
Pedri, Gavi and Nico Williams are set to be key players for Spain over the next decade. All three should be in Luis Enrique’s World Cup squad. They deserve to be.