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Spain's defender Cesar Azpilicueta attends a press conference at the Qatar University training site in Doha ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Image Credit: AFP

Doha: Spain had World Cup campaigns to forget in 2014 and 2018 but the former champions have an opportunity to rebuild with a new-look team that has several promising youngsters, defender Cesar Azpilicueta said on Saturday.

Spain dominated world football between 2008 and 2012, winning the 2010 World Cup and two European championships, but they fell at the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and were knocked out of the last 16 in Russia four years later.

The veterans who won the trophy in 2010 have since left, apart from central midfielder Sergio Busquets, with coach Luis Enrique picking 14 players aged 25 or under.

“It is true that previous experiences were not the ones we dreamed of. Football is giving us an opportunity with a young team,” Azpilicueta, who is playing at his third World Cup, told reporters ahead of their Group E opener against Costa Rica on Wednesday.

“The big difference from the other World Cups is that only Busquets remains from the champions’ team. We have to be united, football is becoming more competitive every day. We hope to improve on those experiences.” Azpilicueta highlighted Barcelona midfielder Gavi’s self-confidence after the 18-year-old helped Spain to top their Nations League group, as well as Ansu Fati, saying the 20-year-old forward could make defenders uncomfortable.

“He (Fati) brings a lot to the team. He’s very young and yet he is daring,” Azpilicueta said.

Great shape

“He looks for openings, creates opportunities... Of course we have players with different characteristics and Ansu can be very important. He’s in great shape.” Azpilicueta has won every trophy on offer with his Premier League club Chelsea and the 33-year-old said winning a trophy with Spain would be the icing on the cake in his career.

“I made my Spain debut in 2013 in Qatar against Uruguay so it would be a good story to win the World Cup here with an amazing group,” he said.

“It’s a tournament where we can’t make mistakes, we have to start well. Of course I would love to add this trophy to my cabinet.” Spain also face Germany and Japan in their group.