Barcelona, Spain (AFP) – Borja Iglesias has been waiting for this moment for a long time.
The Real Betis striker will be hoping to make his international debut at the age of 29 when Spain host Switzerland in the Nations League on Saturday in Zaragoza.
Iglesias may play a second match to restore the confidence that coach Luis Enrique has placed in him when Spain visits Portugal on Tuesday. That match could be a winner-takes-all fight to get a ticket to the finals.
And if he impresses his coach, Iglesias could earn a ticket to the World Cup in November.
Not too bad for the striker who did not become a regular player in the top flight until he was 25 when he broke out while at Espanyol before joining Betis in 2019.
Iglesias was crucial for Betis to end his 17-year wait for a major title last season when he won the King’s Cup. His stoppage-time goal in the second leg of the semi-final against Rayo Vallecano put Betis into the final, with Iglesias scoring his side’s goal in regular time before Betis beat Valencia on penalties.
And he continues to impress with this campaign. His six goals in many matches came in second place after Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski with eight goals in the Spanish League.
Now with injuries to Gerard Moreno and Mikel Oyarzabal, and a lack of playing time for Raul de Tomas, Iglesias is eyeing the opportunity to play in the World Cup in Qatar.
But first he must help Spain in the Nations League, as Spain lost last year’s final to France.
Iglesias said he is trying not to think about the possibility of going to the World Cup, with Luis Enrique preparing to make his final decisions on the players he will make after those two Nations League matches.
“I want to enjoy this moment, try to help the team and learn. There is still a long way to go before the World Cup and there are a lot of players who want to go,” Iglesias said.
When Luis Enrique added Iglesias to his squad, he said he liked how the striker was clearly enjoying playing the match.
“I try to have fun on the field. I am grateful to my coach for saying he liked it because in certain moments in my career people didn’t like it that much because they thought I didn’t take the game seriously,” Iglesias said. “You’ve been very lucky and have to enjoy life.”
Iglesias, who goes by the nickname “The Panda”, has proven that he can excel as the only attacker in defensive Espanyol as well as as a free striker in Manuel Pellegrini’s attacking first Betis.
Spain leads Group A2 in the Nations League with eight points, one point behind Portugal, with two matches remaining. The Czechs are in third place with four points. Switzerland is in last place with three.
Spain can win the group if they beat Switzerland on Saturday and Portugal lose to the Czech Republic. If not, the Iberian neighbors will decide which team qualifies as the group winner when they meet in Braga on Tuesday.
The four group winners in Division One advance to the finals scheduled for mid-June.
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