Hierro lauds England and Spain youngsters at World Cup
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Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka have shone at the World Cup for England
Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka have shone at the World Cup for England

Fernando Hierro has hailed a "great generation" of youthful Spain and England talent shining at the World Cup, referencing the likes of Jude Bellingham and Gavi.

Bellingham, 19, and 21-year-old Saka have impressed in Qatar for England as Gareth Southgate's side secured progression to the knockout stage as Group B winners after Tuesday's 3-0 victory over Wales.

Spain are within touching distance of the knockout stage in the Middle East as well, needing to just avoid defeat against Japan on Thursday to qualify, while victory will take them through as Group E winners.

Bellingham has been ever-present and Saka scored twice for England in a 6-2 win against Iran, with Pedri, Gavi and Ferran Torres leading the way for Luis Enrique's side, much to Hierro's delight.

He said: "I am surprised at the number of young kids with enormous talent who are feeling important in a World Cup, who are 19 or 20 years old, and that's incredible.

"It's something that I find hard to think about, that kids are so prepared with just 19 or 20 years in them and that they are playing as if they are 27 years old.

"They are very young players. Bellingham, Saka, Pedri, Gavi and Torres. It's incredible, unbelievable.

"The great generation of young boys. That speaks very well of the grassroots work that England and Spain have."

David Villa, a 2010 World Cup winner with Spain, echoed Hierro's sentiment but insisted Enrique's current crop should not be compared against the La Roja side that won FIFA's top tournament in South Africa.

"It would be a mistake if we compared the team all the time [to the 2010 one]," Villa told Stats Perform at the Adidas house in Doha.

"They are all good players, they are talented players, young players, they are great. They have a great team and if all the time we try to compare to the 2010 side, it is a mistake for me.

"We need to believe in these guys and believe they can do it."

On teenager Gavi, Villa added: "He is 18 years old. It is incredible the way that he has been playing, not just now, but the last year with the national team and with Barcelona at this age.

"So, his future is bright. I don't know what will happen with this player, but he will have an amazing career because at 18 years old, it is very difficult to show the things he is doing."

The likes of Andres Iniesta, Villa and Xavi have made way for Pedri, Gavi and Torres in Spain's youthful and exciting side, but one face remains the same.

Spain captain Sergio Busquets was part of Vicente del Bosque's World Cup-winning side and remains a key cog in Enrique's team – though that comes as no surprise to Villa.

"I think Busquets is the best player playing this position, for me, of all time," Villa continued.

"He showed in this World Cup that he has continued to be important for the national team, he continues to be important for the world of football. But you never know, to still be playing in four years' time is a lot."

While Villa believes Spain "have a chance" to win their second World Cup, the former La Roja striker suggested England are among the favourites for global glory.

"They have great players, they have a strong team," the 40-year-old said. "For me, I’ve said from the beginning, England are one of the favourites to take the trophy because the squad they have is amazing."

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