Spain replace coach Luis Enrique after early World Cup exit

Luis de la Fuente leads the national football team after a shock defeat to Morocco in the round of 16 of the tournament in Qatar.

Spain’s shock loss to Morocco and elimination from the men’s World Cup has led to changes for the country’s national football team, with coach 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 following a recommendation from the Spanish sports officials.

A former left-back for Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao, de la Fuente, 61, helped Spain’s under-19 team win Euro 2015 and the under-21 team win Euro 2019. He also coached the Spanish team at the Olympic Games of Tokyo, where they won a silver medal.

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

Other candidates considered included former Belgium manager Roberto Martínez and ex-Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelino García Toral.

Spain got off to a good start in Qatar, beating Costa Rica 7-0. But La Roja failed to win again in the group stage, drawing 1–1 with Germany and losing 2–1 to Japan before being knocked out in the round of 16 by Morocco on penalties following a goalless draw in normal time and extra time.

Enrique, a Barcelona legend, took over the national team in 2018 to revamp the squad after being knocked out in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Russia. He temporarily left due to the illness and eventual death of his young daughter, but returned in 2019.

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

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

The 52-year-old’s contract was due to expire after the World Cup. Shortly after the loss to Morocco, he said he would take some rest before discussing his future with the federation.

The elimination of the Qatar team raised more questions about whether Spain, the 2010 world champions, should start overhauling their football philosophy and do away with the “tiki-taka” style of possession that hasn’t paid off much in terms of recent results. Enrique had said he had no intention of renouncing the “tiki-taka” if he stayed on as coach, and de la Fuente is likely to keep it alive as well.

Football analyst Gemma Soler told Al Jazeera that Enrique’s removal came as no surprise after the “disaster” in Qatar and described De la Fuente’s appointment as “an internal solution”.

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

“Luis Enrique has such [strong] personality, he likes to speak and be in the spotlight, while Luis de la Fuente is the opposite.

De la Fuente is expected to make his debut with the senior team when Spain resumes qualifying for Euro 2024 and will face Norway in their opening game of the season on March 25 next year.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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