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Two days being eliminated by Morocco, Spain makes a coaching change

It took a mere 48 hours for Spain to move on from coach Luis Enrique after losing in a shootout to Morocco in the round of 16.ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images

Luis Enrique was replaced by Luis de la Fuente as Spain’s coach on Thursday, two days after the national team was eliminated in the round of 16 at the World Cup.

Spain lost to Morocco, 3-0, in a penalty shootout after a scoreless draw.

The Spanish soccer federation thanked Enrique, but said it was time to “start a new project” to keep the growth achieved by the coach in recent years. It said the change was made after a recommendation by its sporting officials.

Enrique said he was thankful to his players while he was in charge, as well as to federation president Luis Rubiales.

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“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help more,” the outgoing coach said in a statement posted on Twitter and Instagram. “It was very special to be part of this.”

He also thanked fans and called for their support to the new coach.

“What the national team needs is support, in all its meaning, so Luis de la Fuente can achieve the goals.”

The 61-year-old De la Fuente, a former left back with Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao, helped Spain’s under-19 squad win the European Championship in 2015, and the under-21 team win Euro 2019. He also coached Spain’s squad, which won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

De la Fuente coached the senior national team once, 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 former Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelino García Toral.

Spain got off to a good start in Qatar, routing Costa Rica 7-0, but La Roja couldn’t win again in its last three matches. It drew 1-1 with Germany and lost 2-1 to Japan before being held by Morocco.

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Enrique 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 semifinals of the European Championship last year, losing to Italy in a penalty shootout.

Qatar's migrant workers watch the World Cup at the Asian Town cricket stadium, on the outskirts of Doha. The stadium has become a daily draw for thousands of the poorest workers who live in nearby dormitories.INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

Migrant worker death investigated

Qatar is investigating the death of a migrant worker who reportedly was killed while doing repairs at a resort that had served as the Saudi team’s training base during the World Cup.

Nasser Al Khater, the head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the World Cup, expressed his condolences to the family of the worker.

“Right now, it’s still under investigation and what happened and how it occurred. And obviously, it’s something that we feel very sad about,” Al Khater said.

The worker was a Filipino man who was fixing lights at Sealine Beach resort, a compound of villas, The Athletic reported. It said he slipped off a ramp while walking alongside a forklift and fell headfirst against concrete.

Qatar has come under heavy scrutiny over conditions for migrant workers who have done the labor in the country’s massive building campaign for the World Cup, including $200 billion worth of stadiums, metro lines, and other infrastructure.

Last week, a senior official in Qatar’s World Cup organization, Hassan al-Thawadi, put the number of worker deaths during construction for the tournament “between 400 and 500,” a drastically higher number than any other previously offered.

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Qatari officials had earlier said there were three work-related fatalities during construction of stadiums for the tournament, along with 37 other deaths of stadium construction workers not related to their work. Rights groups have said those statistics are incomplete, saying Qatar does not count deaths outside the work sites but caused by working conditions like extreme summer heat.

England will have Raheem Sterling back against France after he missed one game following a home break-in.Abbie Parr/Associated Press

Sterling returns for England

Raheem Sterling will rejoin England’s World Cup squad after a break-in at his home in the United Kingdom.

The Chelsea forward left England’s camp in Qatar to be with his family, which meant he missed his country’s 3-0 win against Senegal in the round of 16 Sunday.

He will now to fly back out to rejoin Gareth Southgate’s squad ahead of Saturday’s quarterfinal match against France at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Wakrah.