Left-back Jose Gaia will not be able to participate with the Spanish national team in the Qatar World Cup finals, which begins on Sunday, after he was excluded from the squad in Doha as a result of his right ankle injury, according to what was announced by the Spanish Federation, who replaced him with young Barcelona player Alex Balde.
“The winger leaves Qatar with love, respect and appreciation from his teammates and the entire Spanish Football Federation,” said the Spanish Federation statement, adding, “Jose Luis Gaia will not be with Spain at the Qatar World Cup.”
The Valencia back suffered a sprain in his right ankle on Wednesday during training, and it was initially believed that the injury was minor and did not threaten his participation in the World Cup in Qatar.
However, “after careful analysis of the situation and continuous consultation with the medical services of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, Luis Enrique made his decision to replace the Valencia full-back who suffered an accidental injury on Wednesday during afternoon training in Oman.”
Later, the Spanish Federation said that “after confirming the absence of Jose Luis Gaia due to injury, the technical staff decided to replace him with Alex Balde … Luis Enrique took into account his brilliance at the beginning of the season.”
Gaia missed the last preparatory match played by coach Luis Enrique’s team on Thursday against Jordan in Amman (3-1) before traveling directly to Doha.
His replacement, Balde (19 years), is currently with the U-21 national team, which concludes its matches for this year against Japan on Friday evening in Seville.
By joining the first team for the first time in his career, Baldi raises the number of Barcelona players in the Spain squad for the World Cup in Qatar to eight.
The news of Gaia’s exclusion and his replacement by Baldi comes five days before Spain’s first match in the Qatar finals against Costa Rica, within the Group E competitions that include Germany and Japan.