Madrid (AFP) – Spain are set for another change of coach ahead of Euro 2020 after Robert Moreno’s position was thrown into doubt on Monday, despite his team closing their qualifying campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Romania.
Moreno chose to skip all his press duties following the victory at the Wanda Metropolitano, after reports had emerged before kick-off that he will not lead the team at next year’s finals.
The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) would not clarify Moreno’s position on Monday but announced a press conference for Tuesday afternoon, where it is expected his removal will be confirmed.
Luis Enrique, who resigned in June for personal reasons, could return and it remains to be seen if Moreno would consider resuming his previous role of assistant.
It would mean Spain making their fourth coaching change in only two years and the clumsy manner in which it has been handled carries echoes of Julen Lopetegui’s sacking on the eve of the 2018 World Cup.
Fernando Hierro took charge for the duration of that tournament and then his replacement, Luis Enrique, stood down in June to take care of his daughter, with Moreno promoted in his place.
During his tenure, Spain have been comfortable if not entirely convincing qualifiers from Group F but few would argue Moreno did not deserve a better send-off.
With automatic qualification sealed and first place guaranteed after their 7-0 demolition of Malta on Saturday, Spain had just secured a top seeding by beating Romania in Madrid, where Villarreal striker Gerard Moreno scored twice.
They are unbeaten in their 10 games, registering eight wins and 31 goals along the way, even if a kind group offers little certainty they will fare as well against stronger opposition in seven months time.
– Spain score four first-half goals –
Sweden had already qualified in second, while Romania knew they and Norway were destined for the play-offs, which perhaps contributed to a ragged display from the visitors that saw them trail by four goals at the interval.
If Luis Enrique is to return, he will inherit a Spain squad high on confidence but low on continuity or cohesion, with several key positions and partnerships still to be established.
Moreno experimented all the way through. His most recent 23-man squad included players from 17 different clubs and this starting line-up against Romania featured seven changes from the thumping win over Malta.
Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga and Manchester United’s David de Gea are still scrapping to be first-choice goalkeeper. The former was preferred here, while Inigo Martinez was the latest trialist alongside Sergio Ramos in central defence.
Fabian Ruiz of Napoli came into central midfield. He, as well as Santi Cazorla and Gerard, perhaps furthered their claims the most. Against poor opposition, Alvaro Morata will have been disappointed to end a run of goals in seven consecutive matches.
After a brilliant Cazorla dummy, Jose Gaya created the opener as he nutmegged Romario Benzar and Fabian applied a smart finish from close range.
Gerard then headed in Cazorla’s whipped cross before poking home Gaya’s delivery after Romania failed to clear. Morata might have scored the fourth had Adrian Rus not turned in Gerard’s cutback for an own goal.
Spain had chances to add a fifth in the second half, but had to wait until the 91st minute. Mikel Oyarzabal, on as a substitute, twisted and drove into the corner to complete an emphatic win.
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