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Spain replaces coach Luis Enrique after his early exit from the World Cup

Luis de la Fuente will lead the national soccer team after the surprise defeat against Morocco in the round of 16 of the Qatar tournament.

Spain’s shock loss to Morocco and elimination from the men’s World Cup has led to changes in the country’s national soccer team, with manager Luis Enrique replaced by Luis de la Fuente.

The Spanish Football Federation thanked Enrique on Thursday but said it was time to “start a new project” after Tuesday’s defeat. The change was made after a recommendation from Spain’s sports officials.

De la Fuente, 61, a former left-back for Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao, helped Spain’s under-19 team win the Euro Cup in 2015 and the under-21 team win Euro 2019. He also coached the Spain team at the Tokyo Olympics, where they won a silver medal.

De la Fuente also once coached the senior team when homegrown players were used in a friendly against Lithuania because the main squad had to go into isolation due to the coronavirus.

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Other candidates that had been considered were the former Belgium coach, Roberto Martínez, and the former Athletic Bilbao coach, Marcelino García Toral.

Spain got off to a good start in Qatar, defeating Costa Rica 7-0. But La Roja did not win again in the group stage, drawing 1-1 with Germany and losing 2-1 to Japan before being eliminated in the round of 16 by Morocco on penalties after a goalless draw in regulation time and in the second leg. extension.

Enrique, a Barcelona legend, took charge of the team in 2018 to start renewing the squad after their elimination in the round of 16 of the World Cup in Russia. He left temporarily due to the illness and eventual death of his young daughter, but returned in 2019.

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

He also led Spain to the semifinals of the European Championship last year, losing to Italy on penalties.

The 52-year-old’s contract was due to end after the World Cup. Moments after the loss to Morocco, he said he would take some time to rest before starting talks with the federation about his future.

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The team’s elimination in Qatar raised further questions about whether 2010 world champions Spain should start revising their footballing philosophy and ditch the “tiki-taka” style of ball possession that has not produced much in recent results. Enrique had said he didn’t plan to give up tiki-taka if he stayed on as coach, and De la Fuente is likely to keep it alive as well.

Soccer analyst Gemma Soler told Al Jazeera that Enrique’s sacking came as no surprise after the “disaster” in Qatar, describing de la Fuente’s appointment as “an internal solution.”

“He’s been the under-21 coach, so he knows all this young generation of new Spanish players,” Soler said, adding that the new manager could share his predecessor’s footballing ideas, but in terms of character, the two men are quite different.

“Luis Enrique has such a [strong] personality, he likes to talk and be the center of attention, while Luis de la Fuente is the opposite”.

De la Fuente is expected to make his senior team debut when Spain returns to play in Euro 2024 qualifiers, facing Norway in their opening match of the campaign on March 25 next year.

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