Spain announces Lopetegui as Del Bosque’s replacement

Julen Lopetegui, pictured above. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

MADRID — Spain’s new football coach Julen Lopetegui has promised to build on the success of predecessor Vicente del Bosque after being named as his replacement on Thursday.

Del Bosque’s eight-year stint included World Cup and European Championship titles.

Lopetegui said at his presentation that he won’t immediately overhaul a squad that has lost its dominant edge.

"There won’t be a revolution, there will be an evolution," Lopetegui said after being introduced by federation president Maria Angel Villar.

"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."

Del Bosque stepped down following Spain’s elimination in the round of 16 of the European Championship. That came two years after failing to move beyond the group phase at the 2014 World Cup.

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

The 49-year-old Lopetegui had been without a job since January after being fired from FC Porto, his only head coaching job with a major club. He failed to win a title during almost two years in Portugal.

A former goalkeeper who started a handful of games for Real Madrid and Barcelona, Lopetegui played for Spain in the 1994 World Cup and coached Spain’s youth squads from 2010-14.

Del Bosque left after leading Spain’s most successful generation of players to titles at the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championship, completing a run of three major titles by Spain started under Luis Aragones at Euro 2008.

One of Lopetegui’s main tasks will be to rebuild the team as many of its top players have started to fade. His familiarity with some of Spain’s younger players from his stint as its youth team coach — including David de Gea and Alvaro Morata — could help him move on from an aging group led by the 32-year-old Andres Iniesta.

"We know many of the players," Lopetegui said. "I am convinced that this generation of Spanish football is good, as well as the one that is coming."

Lopetegui refused to talk about the role of individual players, saying now was not the appropriate time.

His first match will be Spain’s friendly in Belgium on September 1. Four days later Spain starts its 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign with a home match against Liechtenstein.

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