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Spain's Koke undaunted by Xavi comparisons

13 November 2014, 19:28

Madrid - Koke has the over-sized boots of Xavi to fill following the decorated playmaker's international retirement this year but the 22-year-old Spain midfielder said on Thursday he was not overawed by the challenge.

As the holders prepare for Saturday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Belarus in Huelva, Koke said he was focusing on working hard, "being himself" and helping Spain secure their place at the tournament in France in two years' time.

"No pressure at all," Koke told a news conference when asked about being Xavi's successor. "I want to continue going forward and growing with the national team," he added.

"All of us who are here have to take a step forward, the youngsters and the veterans. An era was defined and we have to keep working and get to the European championship."

Also read: South Africa inspired by late Meyiwa

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is looking to rebuild after their failed title defence at the World Cup in Brazil earlier this year and players like Koke are vital to his plans.

He has similar passing ability to Xavi, who made 133 appearances for La Roja winning every major trophy, but has perhaps yet to fully develop his illustrious predecessor's calm on the ball and ability to control the flow of play.

Koke is probably the more tenacious ball winner, however, and is just as adept at delivering telling corners and free kicks into the danger areas.

His performances for Atletico Madrid helped them win their first La Liga title in 18 years last season and reach the final of the Champions League.

"They are different styles," Koke said, comparing the way Spain and Atletico play.

"In the national team we have more possession and I feel more comfortable."

Spain slipped to a surprise defeat in Slovakia last month that cost them top spot in Group C and are second on six points, as many as third-placed Ukraine.

Slovakia lead on nine, Macedonia have three points in fourth and Belarus and Luxembourg have a point each in fifth and sixth.

- Reuters


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