Thursday, January 21, 2021

Bellerin found lengthy Spain absence tough going

SoccerNews in La Liga 9 Nov 2020

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Spain defender Hector Bellerin struggled to accept being out of international football for such a long time.

The Arsenal right-back was called up to Spain’s squad for the first time in four years after Sevilla’s Jesus Navas was ruled out through injury.

He won the last of his three caps for La Roja in a friendly against Georgia in July 2016 and, although he made Spain’s squad for Euro 2016, he did not feature at the tournament.

Bellerin, however, was given a recall by coach Luis Enrique for his side’s friendly with the Netherlands plus the Nations League fixtures against Switzerland and Germany.

The 25-year-old has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers this season and played every minute of their eight Premier League games.

He has made 12 interceptions and eight tackles with a success rate of 88 per cent in those matches, helping the Gunners to keep two clean sheets.

“Yes, I am so happy getting back home. It has been almost five years since the last time, so I am very happy,” Bellerin said in an interview with the Royal Spanish Football Federation.

“They have been tough years, and they always are when you cannot join the national team, but I am very proud and happy now. I can’t wait to start.”

Another player thrilled to be recalled by Luis Enrique after a break is Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke, who last featured for Spain just over two years ago.

Koke, 28, has not featured for Spain since a 4-1 friendly defeat of Wales in October 2018.

“I am very happy to be here again with the national team,” Koke explained.

“It has been a long time, but I do have the same excitement that I had on my first day and I am looking forward to helping the team win the games.”

Spain are top of Nations League Group A4 with seven points but saw their 13-game unbeaten run (W10 D3) in competitive matches ended last time out with a surprise 1-0 loss to Ukraine.

Left-back Jose Luis Gaya has warned his team-mates not to let any complacency seep into their forthcoming performances.

“It is true we are still first, and that gives us a little advantage. But we know how football is and everything can happen,” added the Valencia defender.

“We need to try on winning all the games, that’s what this jersey demands.

“Therefore, we cannot get relaxed and we have to face two official games plus the friendly one as they were finals.”

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