MADRID (AP)Spain called up Barcelona defender Alejandro Balde to replace injured left back Jose Gaya on Friday, less than a week before the team’s opening World Cup match against Costa Rica.
The 19-year-old Balde has had a breakout season at Barcelona, playing both on the left and right side of the defense. He is now set to make his senior debut at the biggest soccer tournament in the world after having only debuted for Spain’s under-21 team in September.
Gaya had to leave Spain’s team on Friday, two days after the Valencia defender injured his right ankle in practice.
Balde and club teammate Jordi Alba will now be Spain coach Luis Enrique’s two left backs. Balde has started most matches for Barcelona this season ahead of the 33-year-old Alba.
Luis Enrique also tried central defender Aymeric Laporte as his starting left back for Thursday’s warmup match, a 3-1 win over Jordan in Amman.
The 27-year-old Gaya has made 18 appearances for Spain, mostly as a backup to Alba. He made one appearance at last year’s European Championship, but he did play the full 90 minutes of Spain’s last Nations League game in September, a 1-0 win at Portugal.
Spain, the 2010 World Cup champion, will also face Germany and Japan in Group E.
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