The Spain supporters in the 51,000 crowd at a sold-out La Cartuja stadium could finally celebrate after Alvaro Morata’s late strike ended Swedish hopes of topping Group B and Pablo Martin Paez Gavira, nickname Gavi, was the toast of Seville.
Less then two months ago the youngster had not even started a game for Barcelona. Now, five weeks after becoming the youngest player to wear the Spain jersey at 17 years and 62 days old, he is the symbol of ‘La Roja’s’ new generation who will try to win Spain’s second World Cup title next year in Qatar.
“Gavi was born to play football”, Spain coach Luis Enrique told reporters after Sunday’s victory. “He is a beast. It’s not normal for someone his age to have this kind of performance.
“He played in a huge game like he was in his backyard. He has a lot of personality,” Luis Enrique added of the teenager, who has started all of Spain’s last four games.
The Spaniards started the game against Sweden needing to avoid defeat to clinch a place at Qatar 2022 and Gavi’s performance was acclaimed by team mates, fans and the media as he scooped up man-of-the-match plaudits.
He had 91 touches, more than anybody on the field. Gavi also won 10 of 15 tackles, was successful with 92% of his pass attempts and in five of his eight dribbles – the most by any Spain player during the qualifying campaign.
“When a manager decides to bring to a national team someone who is only 17 years old it is because he knows what he can bring to the table,” Luis Enrique added.
“I think he never played before in front of more than 50,000 spectators and you all saw the game that kid played. He will not surprise anyone anymore. I repeat, he was born to play football.”