New Spain coach Lopetegui preaches evolution, not revolution

Julen Lopetegui may have the hardest job in Europe, at least on the national team level. The 44-year-old former goalkeeper, unemployed since January, must replace Vicente del Bosque, who in his six years as national team coach led Spain to the 2010 World Cup title and Euro 2012 championship.

Spain is still the toast of Europe at the club level -- it's swept the UEFA Champions League and Europa League titles in 2014, 2015 and 2016 -- but it has exited quietly at the first two tournaments it entered. It didn't make it out of the group stage at the 2014 World Cup and it fell to Italy in the second round at Euro 2016.

Many of the stars of the 2010 World Cup are still around -- Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta -- but a new generation of players has yet to stamp its mark on La Roja.

Lopetegui knows many of them. He coached David de Gea, Marc Bartra, Koke, Thiago and Alvaro Morata -- all Euro 2016 members -- on the Spanish team that won the 2013 European U-21 title.

“There won’t be a revolution, there will be an evolution,” Lopetegui said in taking the job. “The base of the national team is clear and still in its best moment. We are not thinking about a transition. Instead, we are thinking about how to resolve each match ahead.”

Spain will have to get past Italy in World Cup 2018 qualifying. They meet for the first time on Oct. 8.

“We are going to benefit from all the good things that Spanish soccer has been doing for many years, but logically we are going to adapt it to each rival,” Lopetegui said. “Soccer doesn’t stop. We are very proud of the past, but we are looking toward the present and the future.”
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