Luis Enrique replaced as Spain coach after World Cup exit

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DOHA, Qatar – Spain coach Luis de la Fuente replaced Luis Enrique on Thursday, two days after the national team was eliminated in the round of 16 at the World Cup.

Spain lost to Morocco 3-0 on penalties after a goalless draw in regular time and extra time.

The Spanish football federation thanked Luis Enrique but said it was time to “start a new project” to maintain the growth the coach has achieved in recent years. He said that the change was made after the recommendation of sports officials.

Luis Enrique expressed his gratitude to his players, as well as to the president of the federation, Luis Rubiales, during his leadership.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help more,” said the coach said in the statement Posted on Twitter and Instagram. “It was very special to be a part of.”

He also thanked the fans and urged them to support the new coach.

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“What the national team needs is support in every sense, so Luis de la Fuente can score goals.”

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

De la Fuente once coached the senior national team when the youth players were used in a friendly against Lithuania because the main squad had to be isolated due to the coronavirus.

Apart from Spain Under-21 coach De la Fuente, other candidates being considered included former Belgium manager Roberto Martinez and former Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelino Garcia Toral.

Spain got off to a good start with a 7-0 thrashing of Costa Rica in Qatar, but La Roja have failed to win again in their last three matches. They drew 1-1 with Germany and lost 2-1 to Japan before beating Morocco.

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Luis Enrique took charge of the national team to begin a squad overhaul after being eliminated in the round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. She left temporarily due to the illness and eventual death of her young daughter, but returned in 2019.

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

Last year, he lost to Italy in the penalty shootout and took Spain to the semi-finals of the European Championship.

Luis Enrique’s contract expired after the World Cup. The former Barcelona player and coach said minutes after the defeat to Morocco that he would take some time to rest before starting talks with the federation over his future. He said he wanted to stay with the national team “forever” but knew that might not be possible.

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Not long ago, Luis Enrique, 52, who was seen as one of the most intense coaches in football, appeared at the World Cup, did streaming sessions, went for a bike ride and spoke openly about controversial issues.

The team’s collapse in Qatar has raised more questions about whether Spain need to start rebuilding their footballing philosophy and get rid of their recent tiki-taka style of possession. Luis Enrique has said that he does not plan to give up “tiki-taka” if he remains as coach, and De la Fuente will keep it alive.

De la Fuente is expected to make his senior debut as Spain continue to play in Euro 2024 qualifiers next March. The sports director in the federation was also changing.

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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