Lopetegui and what lies ahead for Spanish football
Maroto Lopetegui talked with AS about what lies ahead. What comes first is a friendly against Belgium (on 1 September) followed immediately by the start of the qualifying group for Russia 2018, where Spain will clash with Liechtenstein, Italy, Albania, Macedonia and Israel. I've not listed them in order of importance, of course, but in that which we meet them. It's good to know that only the first team qualifies automatically and in the case that we finish second, surely the worst that can happen, we will have to play home and away ties against another second placed side. That's assuming that we're not the worst of all the second placed teams across the nine groups, which I can't imagine.
In any case, Lopetegui doesn't have it easy. He is cautious with his statements, but we all know what the situation is: the engine has stopped, it has been damaged, and new pieces have to be put in place. That machine that was set in motion long ago by Luis Aragones and that Del Bosque maintained, even improved, has conked out, its materials fatigued. But it was a good model, original, beautiful, thoughtful, intelligent. It was also durable and it lasted. But it couldn't give any more, and its required renewal was something Del Bosque did not tackle, for understandable reasons. He had a great adventure with those players: how could he tell them that their time was up?
Lopetegui comes in fresh, without those bonds. He comes into it with a privileged perspective. He was a good choice. But, like it or not, those that he has at his disposal now are not as good as before. Casillas is no longer the wonder he once was, and as we learned from a rare slip by Del Bosque he doesn't go to be a substitute. Puyol has retired, Xavi Hernandez almost and David Villa, might as well be. Players like these are not there. It's time to start again, with patience and boldness, with players who have not yet starred. I await the new coach's first team selection inquisitively. It will show his intention.
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