Only those who do not play emerge unscathed from the disappointments of the World Cup. It is a law as old as football. Qatar claimed several victims in the selection. Luis Enrique left office and was succeeded by Luis de la Fuente, under 21 coach in recent years. Although it caused surprise in some sectors of the press, the decision corresponds to an unwritten rule, but quite widespread in Spain, where the success of the youth teams grants its coaches a privileged position in the line of succession, as happened with Iñaki Sáez, who took over from Camacho in 2002, and Luis Suárez in 1988, after the Miguel Muñoz cycle.
De la Fuente was a sought-after youth winger, relocated by Javier Clemente to Athletic’s left-back who won the 1982-83 and 83-84 league titles, before moving to Sevilla, where he continued a solid professional career. His access to the selection has occurred internally. His prestige is related to the successes he obtained with the sub 19 and sub 21 teams. Man of the house, that figure is called in soccer. He therefore does not belong to the category of famous coach, former international star or new fashion coach.
De la Fuente has had an advantage – second in the federation’s coaching scale – and faces some drawbacks, one of them related to media perception. Without a past as a coach in the First Division, his margin of error will be narrower than that associated with selectors with extensive track records in clubs. He has to win soon and a lot. Otherwise he will receive a fearsome label: transition technician.
His future will depend on four games, two in the Euro 2024 qualification -Norway and Scotland- and the two in the final phase of the League of Nations, which will be played in June. In the semifinals they will face Italy. From there to the final or the match for third and fourth place. Luis de la Fuente will be measured in this very short period, a fight against the clock that has already begun and will continue this Tuesday in Scotland.
The team has been through troubled times since the 2014 World Cup. The last three World Cups have resulted in enormous disappointments. From the most brilliant period in the history of Spanish football – the 2008-12 period, victories in two Euro Cups and one World Cup – there has been a long cycle of frustrations, the effect of which is visible in a team that no longer scares on the international scene.
Every blow in the World Cups has dwarfed the poster of the selection. Outside, he respects her, but he is not afraid of her. Inside, there is a loss of self-esteem, confidence, packaging, of all those intangibles that serve to measure the true stature of a team. In many ways, this team refers to the one that came out badly at Euro 2004 and went through hell to reach the 2006 World Cup.
As now, it was said that Spanish football had plenty of correct players and lacked differentials. Luis Aragonés had to manage that complex period. Against all odds, the team contained one of the most unforgettable collections of players football has ever seen. Luis had a name, past, charisma and media grips. He allowed her to win the time that perhaps others would not have reserved. He built the most distinguished of teams after going through very delicate moments.
An overwhelming job awaits the new coach. In four games he will have to remedy the despondency that surrounds the team and call for optimism. There is no better place than the venerable Hampden Park to further the adventure.
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