‘Individuals less important than the team’

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has brushed aside the omission of senior goalkeeper Iker Casillas by stressing individuals are less important than the collective unit.

Lopetegui left the 35-year-old Porto player out of the squad he selected for his first competitive match since taking over from the retired Vicente del Bosque.

Casillas’ former Real Madrid team-mate and current Spain centre-back Sergio Ramos publicly expressed surprise at the decision, but Lopetegui is unmoved as he prepares for a World Cup Group G qualifier against minnows Liechtenstein in Leon on Monday.

“There are many things that are seen from outside with an importance they do not have inside,” he told Marca.

“There is nothing to talk about that topic. It’s nothing important. I have to be prepared to live with this.

“I am among those who think that if the group works, then the individuals are strengthened.

“We are very pleased with their attitude and with their commitment of being a team, a collective.”

Lopetegui has a difficult act to follow in succeeding Del Bosque, who oversaw an unprecedented period of success for the national team with back-to-back European Championship wins either side of the country’s first World Cup triumph.

“Vicente will go into the annals of history in how he succeeded and we should be very proud of the work he did and very happy for what he achieved with Spain,” said the new coach, who prepared for the start of his qualifying campaign with a well-received friendly win over world number twos Belgium.

“In my head I have only match: Liechtenstein. We have to be able to concentrate all on what is really important, which is the three points.

“We must quickly forget the previous game and focus on the only thing that can help us to make a great game.”

The targets for Liechtenstein, who with a population of approximately 36,000 are one of the smallest nations in qualifying, are far more modest.

In their last two campaigns for Brazil 2014 and South Africa 2010 they failed to win a single match, collecting just two points in each.

Press Association Sport

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