24th April 2024
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Luis Enrique replaced as coach of Spain after team’s World Cup exit

Luis Enrique has been replaced by Luis de la Fuente as Spain’s national football coach, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) announced on Thursday, just two days after the team was eliminated in the round of 16 at the World Cup.

Spain had been strong favourites to beat Morocco but lost 3-0 in a penalty shootout, after a scoreless draw in regular and extra time. ALSO READ: Morocco beat Spain on penalties to win a place in World Cup quarter finals.

‘We dominated the game but we lacked a goal,’ Luis Enrique said after the game. ‘We could have been more effective in the final third, but I am more than satisfied with what my players did. They represented perfectly what my idea of football is.’

‘Both the president, Luis Rubiales, and the sporting director, José Francisco Molina, have told the coach their decision,’ the RFEF said in a statement on Thursday. The federation thanked Enrique, but said it was time to ‘start a new project’ to keep the growth achieved by the coach in recent years. 

‘The sporting direction of the RFEF has given the president a report, in which it was determined that a new project should start for the national team, with the objective of continuing the growth achieved in the last few years thanks to Luis Enrique and his colleagues,’ said the RFEF.

The 61-year-old De la Fuente, a former left back with Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao, helped Spain’s under-19 squad win the European Championship in 2015, and the under-21 team win Euro 2019. He also coached Spain’s squad, which won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

De la Fuente had coached the senior national team once, when youth players were used in a friendly against Lithuania because the main squad had to go into isolation because of Coronavirus.

Other candidates who had been considered besides De la Fuente included former Belgium manager Roberto Martínez and former Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelino García Toral.

Spain got off to a good start at the World Cup in Qatar, thrashing Costa Rica 7-0, but they couldn’t win again in their last three matches. They drew 1-1 with Germany and lost 2-1 to Japan before being held by Morocco.

Enrique took over the national team in 2018 to start revamping the squad after its elimination in the round of 16 of the World Cup in Russia. He temporarily left because of the illness and eventual death of his young daughter, but returned in 2019.

He helped Spain reach the last four of the Nations League twice, including this season and last year, when it lost the final to France.

He also led Spain to the semi-finals of the European Championship last year, losing to Italy in a penalty shootout.

Enrique’s contract ended after the World Cup. The former Barcelona player and coach had said moments after the loss to Morocco that he would take some time to rest before starting talks with the federation about his future. He said he would have liked to stay with the national team ‘forever,’ but knew that it might not be possible.

The 52-year-old Enrique, not long ago seen as one of the most uptight coaches in soccer, had opened up at the World Cup, doing streaming sessions, going on bicycle rides and talking frankly about controversial issues. ALSO READ: Luis Enrique: streaming, connecting with fans, and setting his players 1,000 penalties of ‘homework’.

The team’s elimination in Qatar raised more questions about whether Spain should start overhauling its football philosophy and get rid of the ‘tiki-taka’ ball-possession style that has not produced results recently. 

De la Fuente is expected to make his debut with the senior team when Spain resumes playing in qualifying for Euro 2024 in March next year.

Spain last lifted a major trophy a decade ago at Euro 2012, while they have not won a single knockout game at the World Cup since triumphing in South Africa in 2010.

ALSO READ: Morocco beat Spain on penalties to win a place in World Cup quarter finals.

ALSO READ: Luis Enrique: streaming, connecting with fans, and setting his players 1,000 penalties of ‘homework’.

ALSO READ: Spain lose 2-1 to Japan, but both teams progress to last 16 of World Cup.

ALSO READ: Spain draw 1-1 with Germany in second World Cup group match.

ALSO READ: Spain beat Costa Rica 7-0 in World Cup opener, with over 1,000 passes in 90 minutes.

ALSO READ: Spain’s King Felipe VI criticised over plans to attend Qatar World Cup.

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