The La Roja topped their group to earn automatic qualification to the FIFA World Cup 2022.

The Spain national team were given a reality check in the 2018 FIFA World Cup by Russia. Having sacked their manager just before their opening game, Spain was just an accident waiting to happen. After disappointing results in the past few tournaments, Luis Enrique was appointed in 2019 to take Spain forward.

With the appointment of Enrique, there have been some major changes for Spain. There is a surge of fresh enthusiasm and hunger among the players and fans. They recently topped their World Cup 2022 Qualifiers group with 19 points and automatically qualified for the main tournament.

Here are a few ways Luis Enrique has solidified the Spanish national team.

4. Trusting his young players

Pedri is one of the main weapons in the arsenal of Luis Enrique (Courtesy: Barca Universal)

The decision by Luis Enrique to name a young squad for the Euro 2020 put him in the spotlight. The whole football fraternity was shocked and predicted Spain would not go far in the tournament. But contrary to expectations, the former Barcelona manager reaped the benefits of his decision as he lead Spain to the semi-finals of the tournament.

The faith he put in his youngsters has paid a dividend. Young talents like Pedri, Ferran Torres and Dani Olmo grabbed center stage and lit up the Euros. They beat Croatia and took Italy to the penalty shootout in the semi-finals. Enrique’s Spain was excellent in the Nations League as well. They beat Italy to end their 37 games unbeaten streak in the semi-final and were beaten by France in the final. The future certainly looks bright for the Spain national team.

3. Creating confidence among players

Since his appointment, the most important thing Luis Enrique has done is instill confidence into the squad. He has turned the Spain national team into a family where everyone feels protected. Following the build-up to the Euro 2020, Enrique was constantly in the limelight. But he never let the pressure fade his players.

In the round of 16 of the Euro, Unai Simon made a trivial mistake that led to a goal for Croatia. But after that, he was magnificent and produced a match-winning performance. That was the fruit of Enrique’s years of hard work in instilling confidence among his players.

Along with his young players, Enrique has used his senior players to perfection. With the perfect blend of youth and experience, the former Barcelona manager is creating a winning formula in Spain.

2. Giving his team an identity

Spain was known for their beautiful style of play. But following Euro 2012, they had somewhat lost their sheen. The same squad that had won the FIFA World Cup seemed to be falling apart. They lacked identity.

It took a bold personality like Luis Enrique to help them get back on their feet. Most of his predecessors failed because their philosophy did not complement the squad. On the contrary, Enrique has developed a philosophy that perfectly blends with his squad. The tactician has given Spain an identity that they had been lacking for years.

Now the morale of the national team seems to be high and most importantly the players are enjoying their football.

1. Bold Decisions

Whether it was Barcelona or Celta Vigo, Luis Enrique did not shy away from making bold decisions. For most of the previous decade, Spain’s national team remained unchanged. The players that won the FIFA World Cup in 2010 were untouchable at times. The previous managers never dared to drop players from elite clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid.

But with Enrique, it was a different story. His decision to drop big names like Sergio Ramos, David de Gea, Dani Carvajal and Pique was a masterstroke. He built a team consisting of players who deserved to play for the national team. Players like Pedri, Unai Simon and Ferran Torres — who were comparatively lesser known before the Euro are widely regarded currently.

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