Koke ready to cover for Xavi

As a boy, he watched the World Cup on TV, but he thought it would be "impossible" to play in the tournament.

Now, Atletico Madrid's 22-year-old midfielder Koke could play a major role in Spain's defence of their World Cup title.

Koke showed during Spain's 2-0 win over El Salvador last Sunday in their final warm-up game before kicking off their title defence against Holland on Saturday morning (Singapore time) that he can cover perfectly for Xavi Hernandez in central midfield.

With 34-year-old Xavi likely to struggle to play 90 minutes every five days, that means Koke is likely to enjoy plenty of time on the pitch in Brazil.

He has come a long way since being brought up in the humble Madrid neighborhood of Vallecas but, in an interview with the El Pais newspaper yesterday, Koke explained that those roots are vital to his style of play.

"My mother worked and looked after the house and my father worked hard as well. I was taught that you have to work hard at things in order to earn them and that is probably reflected on the pitch," he said.

He admitted that he had never modelled himself on Xavi's style of play.

"There will never be anyone like Xavi - I watched him a lot and also Andres Iniesta - but it was hard enough for me to get into the Atletico side. It has never entered my head to be half of what Xavi is as a player," said Koke.

Koke may not be first choice at the start of the World Cup, but his philosophy is that of a winner.

"If I can help on the pitch or from the bench... we have to be united and that is the key to success, to know that we are all taking part even if we are not playing." he said.

"We have learned that from where we have come from." 
- Wire Services.

World Cup