Soccer-No Laporte for Spain says coach de la Fuente ahead of Croatia clash

FILE PHOTO: Feb 1, 2024; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Al-Nassr defender Aymeric Laporte (27) looks on against Inter Miami CF during the first half at Kingdom Arena. Mandatory Credit: Victor Fraile-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Spain coach Luis de la Fuente was tight-lipped about who would start his side's Euro 2024 opener against Croatia on Saturday, but defender Aymeric Laporte will play no part having been ruled out due to unspecified "issues".

Speaking to a press conference on Friday, De la Fuente said Laporte was fit enough to play against the Croats although he was not going to consider him for selection.

"Aymeric Laporte didn't get injured, he just had some issues and I decided we wouldn't take the risk so he's not going to play tomorrow," the 62-year-old told reporters.

Champions in 2008 and 2012, Spain reached the last 16 in 2016 and were beaten on penalties by Italy in the semi-finals of the last Euros. They expect a tough test as they get their tournament underway against the Croatians.

"We're playing against another strong team tomorrow, it won't be easy. It's a very even tournament with some of the best players in the world, we have to perform to a really high level and get things right," De la Fuente said.

Though declining to reveal who would start, the coach was full of admiration for his two flying wingers, Lamine Yamal, 16, and 21-year-old Nico Williams, with Yamal coming in for particular praise.

"He's a young boy with an incredible talent, it's almost a gift from God. Very few players have his attributes in terms of understanding the game," he added.

Midfielder Rodri emphasised the importance of getting off to a good start in Group B, where they will also face European champions Italy and Albania.

"It's a short tournament, the group is tough and we know how important a good first result is in this type of tournament," he told reporters.

"You are still nervous at the beginning. You want to see how the team will respond if you play at a high level and compete," he added.

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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