West News Wire: Spain’s national football team has changed coaches, with Luis de la Fuente taking over for Luis Enrique following the country’s shocking loss to Morocco and elimination from the men’s World Cup.
After Tuesday’s loss, the Spanish football federation thanked Enrique on Thursday but stated that it was time to “start a new initiative.” The modification was carried out on the advice of Spain’s sports administrators.
The 61-year-old de la Fuente, a former left-back for Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla, assisted Spain’s under-19 team in 2015 as they won the European Championship, and the under-21 side in 2019 when they won the Euro. He also led Spain’s team, which took home a silver medal at the Olympics in Tokyo.
De la Fuente also once coached the senior national team when youth players were used in a friendly against Lithuania because the main squad had to go into isolation because of the coronavirus.
Other candidates who had been considered included former Belgium manager Roberto Martínez and ex-Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelino García Toral.
Spain got off to a good start in Qatar, routing Costa Rica 7-0. But La Roja did not win again in the group stages, drawing 1-1 with Germany and losing 2-1 to Japan before being knocked out in the round of 16 by Morocco on penalties after a goalless draw in normal and extra time.
Enrique, a Barcelona legend, 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.
The 52-year-old’s contract had been 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.
The team’s elimination in Qatar raised more questions about whether Spain, the 2010 world champions, should start overhauling their football philosophy and get rid of the “tiki-taka” ball-possession style that has not produced much in the ways of recent results. Enrique had said he was not planning to relinquish the “tiki-taka” if he remained as a coach, and de la Fuente also is likely to keep it alive.
De la Fuente is expected to make his debut with the senior team when Spain resume playing in qualifying for Euro 2024, facing Norway in their opening match of the campaign on March 25 next year.