Announcing his choice of players while cycling in hills near Madrid, Spain coach Luis Enrique provided some other surprises in his second-to-last squad before the World Cup.
The 25-man squad for upcoming Nations League games was released Friday and included newcomers Nico Williams, Athletic Bilbao’s 20-year-old winger, and Real Betis’ 29-year-old striker Borja Iglesias.
Luis Enrique revealed the squad via a video filmed while riding his bike. The former Barcelona player and coach, who keeps in shape at age 52 thanks to running and biking, called it his “homage to the recent Spanish Vuelta” cycling race that finished earlier this month.
The video showed the names of the selected players imposed on the hilly and winding road as Luis Enrique cycled along.
Luis Enrique was unable to count on several injured players who helped Spain reach the semifinals of the European Championship last year, including forwards Gerard Moreno, Mikel Oyarzabal and Dani Olmo and central defender Aymeric Laporte.
The most noticeable absence is forward Ansu Fati, who is playing limited minutes for Barcelona but expected to be in Qatar. Nor did Luis Enrique opt for former captain Sergio Ramos, who after a long injury layoff is back to playing for Paris Saint-Germain.
Forward Marco Asensio also made the squad despite little playing time for Real Madrid, while Valencia holding midfielder Hugo Guillamón was listed as a defender by Luis Enrique.
Iglesias finally got the call after scoring four goals in five Spanish league games for Betis this season.
Nico Williams scored his first Spanish league goal in the last round in a victory for Bilbao.
Nico’s older brother and Bilbao teammate, Iñaki Williams, will play for Ghana at the World Cup after switching allegiance from Spain to the country of his parents.
Spain hosts Switzerland in Zaragoza on Sept. 24 and plays Portugal in Braga three days later in the Nations League.
Spain leads Group 2 with eight points, one more than Portugal. The Czech Republic is also in the group.