A new coach in & Iniesta out - how Spain must rebuild after World Cup shambles

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After La Roja suffered a disastrous exit in the round of 16, a rethink is now needed and here is a look at some of the changes that should be made

Back to the drawing board for Spain. Knocked out of the World Cup on penalties by Russia on Sunday, La Roja head home with their tails between their legs following an ill-fated campaign that was supposed to see them fight for the trophy in Moscow on July 15.

Against Russia, Fernando Hierro's side played over 1,000 passes to set a new record, yet they still needed an own-goal to score and the last-16 match went to a shootout after Russia equalised with a penalty and held out against a Spanish side that created surprisingly little.

It was a disappointing tournament overall for La Roja, with only one win in four games, a narrow 1-0 victory over Iran which arrived courtesy of a fortuitous Diego Costa strike he knew very little about.

In many ways, it was perhaps to be expected. Spain sacked coach Julen Lopetegui just two days before the start of the World Cup after it was announced the Basque boss would take over at Real Madrid after the competition.

Sporting director and former Spain skipper Hierro took over and promised to change very little, yet the transition was far from ideal at such short notice and especially after the two-year preparation process under Lopetegui (in which the team were unbeaten) was so abruptly curtailed. So what next for La Roja?


Spain players who should be dropped


Andres Iniesta has called time on his international career at the age of 34, while Gerard Pique has previously said he will step aside after this World Cup. At the age of 35, goalkeeper Pepe Reina is also unlikely to feature again for La Roja at an international tournament.

A debate over David De Gea has also started in the last couple of weeks. The Manchester United goalkeeper saved only one shot from the seven he faced in Russia as conceded six goals and was unable to stop any of Russia's four penalties in the shootout. However, he is unlikely to be left out, even if Hierro is replaced as coach.

One player whose international career may be over is Iago Aspas. The Celta Vigo striker scored against Morocco, but was the unlucky man as he missed the decisive penalty on Sunday. He turns 31 on August 1 and although his form last season was spectacular at club level, it remains to be seen if he will have a part to play in future.

Jordi Alba Sergio Ramos Koke Fernando Hierro Spain Russia World Cup 07/01/18


Spain players who should be called up


The core of the Spain squad is good and also young, so there is no need for big changes in personnel despite the disappointing exit against Russia. However, there will need to be some alterations in the future, especially as players like Iniesta, Pique and Reina step aside.

One of the noticeable aspects in Spain's performances at Russia 2018 was the lack of protection for Sergio Busquets, who was joined in the team by Koke against Russia. The Barcelona midfielder also does not have a natural replacement, but Atletico Madrid's new signing Rodri (who recently joined the Rojiblancos from Villarreal) is a player who could come in. The 22-year-old made his debut against Germany in March and should be involved increasingly in future.

Fabian Ruiz, who is about to join Napoli from Betis, is another exciting talent for the midfield and his former club team-mate Dani Ceballos should also make the step up from the Under-21 side soon. Carlos Soler, Valencia's 21-year-old attacking midfielder, is another who should be given a chance, along with Barcelona's Carles Alena.

In defence, Spain will hope to convince Manchester City centre-back Aymeric Laporte that his future lies with La Roja and not France, while Real Madrid's Jesus Vallejo deserves a chance to step up and Betis' former Barca man Marc Bartra is another alternative.

Further forward, Madrid's Borja Mayoral may be an option, while Athletic's exciting forward Inaki Williams and Real Sociedad winger Mikel Oyarzabal also deserve more opportunities, while Chelsea's former Real striker Alvaro Morata will also be keen to return to the fold after he was left out of the squad for Russia 2018.

Rodrigo Villarreal Osmanlispor Europa League


Should Hierro stay on as coach?


The 50-year-old was previously in a role as sporting director and only took over as coach when Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the tournament. And after La Roja lost out to Russia on Sunday, RFEF president Luis Rubiales said there will be an announcement in the coming weeks over whether the former Spain and Real Madrid defender will continue as coach.

The players like working with Hierro and many look up to him following his fantastic playing career with Madrid and Spain. However, he lacks coaching experience, having spent one season as an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Real and another at Oviedo, where he led the Asturian club to eighth place in Spain's second tier. In this tournament, he was found wanting, too, and La Roja should be looking at bringing in a better coach.

A number of names have been linked, including former Atletico and Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores, Betis' Quique Setien, Madrid legend Michel and others, but perhaps the outstanding candidate is former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique, who has been out of work since stepping down at Camp Nou in the summer last year.

Luis Enrique Barcelona


Is it time for a new playing style?


Much has been said about the fact that Spain passed the ball over 1,000 times against Russia, yet failed to create a clear-cut opening apart from their goal, which was an own-goal anyway. Cesc Fabregas said on the BBC: "I’m a big fan of tiki-taka, the beautiful game, but nothing’s happening."

He was correct in his assessment, yet that does not mean an entire playing style should be scrapped. Because even though Xavi is no longer around and Iniesta is retiring, Spain still have the players for possession football and are better off playing to their strengths. Passing and possession, however, needs to bring chances and that has always been the aim.

In their 2010 World Cup win, Spain scored sparingly, with no more than two goals in any game and only one in each of their four knockout matches from the last 16 to the final. That shows the importance of a good defence, with six goals conceded in four fixtures at this World Cup clearly not good enough.

The style obviously needs to evolve as football has moved on since 2010, but there were signs it had in 20 unbeaten games under Lopetegui and there is no need for a drastic change of direction in that respect. Adding some pertinent tactical tweaks and a few new concepts should suffice.

Andres Iniesta Amrabat España Marruecos 25062018


How Spain could look at Euro 2020


Although it is difficult to predict, Spain's side in 2020 should not be too different. Sergio Ramos will be 34, but it looks like he wants to continue with his national team, while De Gea or Athletic Club's Kepa Arrizabalaga are likely to start in goal, with Jordi Alba and Dani Carvajal still set to be involved, although the latter could face competition from Real Sociedad youngster Alvaro Odriozola.

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In midfield, Saul Niguez could be a starter by then, with Sergio Busquets and Isco also likely to be there. Rodri, Fabian, Koke, Ceballos and Koke could all be in contention for a place in the line-up as well.

Further forward, Marco Asensio should be in the team, while Morata could return for Diego Costa in the centre, with Williams a possibility as well. Below is how a Spain side could look for Euro 2020.

Spain 2020

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