Spain call up Alejandro Balde to replace Jose Gaya in World Cup squad

Spain have confirmed that injured left-back Jose Gaya will be replaced in their 26-player World Cup squad by Barcelona youngster Alejandro Balde.

Valencia stalwart Gaya picked up an ankle problem during training on Wednesday, and despite initial hopes that he would be fit for the tournament, he has had to withdraw from the squad on the eve of the finals.

In his place, Luis Enrique has surprisingly opted to call uncapped 19-year-old Balde into the fold.

Balde has made just 23 appearances for Barcelona’s first team and has had to fill in at right-back so far this season due to injury problems across the backline.

However, he has put in several impressive performances for Barça this term and has even ousted Jordi Alba from the starting XI at times.

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He had been training with Spain’s U21 setup in recent days and so will join the senior setup in Qatar fit and ready to play.

Balde’s inclusion means Barcelona now have 17 players representing them at this winter’s World Cup.

Spain will kick off their group stage campaign against Costa Rica next Wednesday.

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