Monday, February 26, 2024
Monday, February 26, 2024
Home » Euro Qualification Supports Work of Spain Coach de la Fuente

Euro Qualification Supports Work of Spain Coach de la Fuente

by Charlie Atkinson
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Spain assured their place at the UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany with a 1-0 win away to Norway on Sunday and Spain fans can look forward to battling for another major tournament.

Gavi’s second-half goal was enough to separate the two sides, as Spain totally annulled a Norway attack containing Alexander Sorloth, Martin Odegaard and the fearsome Erling Haaland, leaving keeper Unai Simon with barely a save to make.

The win strengthens the position of Spain coach Luis de la Fuente, who was a surprise replacement for Luis Enrique following Spain’s disappointing FIFA World Cup in Qatar last year.

“The team has grown immensely, we are united and we have a future – which is what excites us the most,” said the coach after Sunday’s win.

A 2-0 defeat to Scotland, which was Spain’s only loss in the qualifiers, in De la Fuente’s second game in charge in March, saw the knives of some reporters get an early sharpening.

The pressure was certainly on when Spain faces Italy in the semifinal of the UEFA Nations League in June, but they won and then defeated Croatia in the final to boost the coach’s credibility.

De la Fuente was again under pressure following former Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales’ controversial kiss of Jenni Hermoso. TV cameras saw De la Fuente on his feet to applaud the man who gave him his current job, after Rubiales gave a defiant speech refusing to resign over the affair, and there were calls for De la Fuente to resign.

The coach explained he had only applauded because he was ‘overcome’ by the moment and surprised as he had attended the meeting expecting Rubiales to step down.

It is the only moment of controversy for a man who clearly prefers a low profile, and his press conferences see him prefer to explain his situation rather than adopt the combative style of his predecessor with some sectors of the media.

De la Fuente’s players backed him up with a 7-1 win in Georgia and a 6-0 thrashing of Cyprus to put Spain firmly on track to Germany, and wins against Scotland and Norway in the past week have finished the job.

The former Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla left back was employed to give continuity to the Spain team, and he has helped to do just that, with Rodri and Alejandro Balde taking over in central midfield and left back from Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba respectively, and a host of new faces appearing in his squad.

The style of play has evolved, rather than changed from that used by Enrique, with a slightly more physical presence in midfield and defense, but without sacrificing the passing game that has been the hallmark of Spain for almost 20 years.

With eight players all making their debuts since De la Fuente took over, and with Spain now assuring their place at the Euro 2024, more can be expected in the coming months.

With his high pressure and tight defending, and with striker Alvaro Morata playing the best football of his career, the De la Fuente era has been a success so far. 

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