Iglesias prepares for his Spain debut with World Cup call

BARCELONA, Spain (dpa) – Borja Iglesias has been waiting for this moment for a very long time.

The Real Betis forward is hoping to make his international debut aged 29 when Spain host Switzerland in the Nations League in Zaragoza on Saturday.

Iglesias could also get a second game to repay the faith coach Luis Enrique had in him when Spain visit Portugal on Tuesday. This match could be a duel for the ticket to the final.

And if he impresses his coach, Iglesias could then secure a ticket to November’s World Cup.

Not bad for a striker who only became a top-flight starter aged 25 when he broke through at Espanyol before joining Betis in 2019.

Iglesias was instrumental in Betis ending their 17-year wait for a major title last season when they won the Copa del Rey. His goal in stoppage time in the second leg of the semifinals against Rayo Vallecano, Betis brought the final where Iglesias scored his side’s goal in regular time before Betis beat Valencia on penalties.

And he has continued to impress this campaign. With six goals in as many games, he is second only to Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski with eight in the Spanish league.

With Gerard Moreno and Mikel Oyarzabal injured and Raúl de Tomás missing playing time, Iglesias is now looking to play at the World Cup in Qatar.

But first he must help Spain in the Nations League, where Spain lost the final to France last year.

Iglesias said he’s trying not to think about the possibility of going to the World Cup as Luis Enrique will make his final decision on which players to take after those two Nations League games.

“I want to enjoy this moment, try to help the team and learn. There is still a long way to go before the World Cup and there are many players who want to go,” said Iglesias. “I focus on the here and now.”

When Luis added Enrique Iglesias to his squad, he said he liked how the striker was clearly enjoying the game.

“I try to have fun on the field. I’m grateful to my coach for saying he likes it because at certain moments in my career people didn’t really like it because they thought I wasn’t taking the game seriously,” said Iglesias. “I was very lucky and you have to enjoy life.”

Iglesias, endearingly nicknamed ‘The Panda’, has proven he can excel both as a lone attacker in defensive Espanyol and as a free-flowing forward in Manuel Pellegrini’s attacking First Betis.

Spain leads Group A2 in the Nations League with eight points, one more than Portugal, with two games remaining. The Czechs are third with four points. Switzerland is at the bottom with three.

Spain can win the group if they beat Switzerland and Portugal lose to the Czech Republic on Saturday. If not, the Iberian neighbors will decide who progresses as group winners when they meet in Braga on Tuesday.

The four top-tier group winners advance to the finals, scheduled for mid-June.

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