Spanish football launched a new era with the appointment of 49-year-old former goalkeeper Julen Lopetegui to replace Vicente del Bosque as national team coach on Thursday.
After early exits from the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has picked a coach it knows well from managing the country’s youth teams from 2010 to 2014.
Lopetegui played for Castilla, Longrones and Rayo Vallecano and was a back-up keeper at Real Madrid and Barcelona. He was a member of Spain’s squad at the 1994 World Cup but did not play.
He made one international appearance in March 1994 when he appeared as a substitute in a 2-0 friendly loss to Croatia.
Lopetegui took Spain to the under-19 European Championship title in Estonia in 2012 and repeated the feat with the under-21s at the Euros in Nyon, Switzerland the following year.
That success paved the way for him to take over at Porto in May 2014 but he was sacked in January this year after their Champions League elimination at the group stage.
The 65-year-old Del Bosque stepped down as Spain’s coach after the team’s last 16 exit from Euro 2016, having failed to get them past the group stage at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Del Bosque did, though, have success during his reign.
After taking over from Luis Aragones following Spain’s Euro 2008 triumph, he led the country to their first world title in South Africa in 2010 before Euro 2012 glory in Poland/Ukraine.
Lopetegui’s first task will be meeting the media at a news conference later on Thursday before turning his attention to a tricky 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in which Spain face Liechtenstein, Italy, Albania, Israel and Macedonia in Group G.
Their first qualifier is home to Liechtenstein on Sept. 5.