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Spain fires manager Luis Enrique after upset loss to Morocco

Luis Enrique and Spain lost to Morocco in a penalty shootout in the Round of 16 on Tuesday at the 2022 World Cup. Photo by Friedemann Vogel/EPA-EFE
Luis Enrique and Spain lost to Morocco in a penalty shootout in the Round of 16 on Tuesday at the 2022 World Cup. Photo by Friedemann Vogel/EPA-EFE

Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Spain fired manager Luis Enrique after an upset loss to Morocco at the 2022 World Cup, the Spanish Football Federation announced Thursday.

Morocco beat Spain 3-0 in penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw in regulation and extra time in the Round of 16 on Tuesday in Ar Rayyan, Qatar.

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"The [Spanish Football Federation] would like to thank Luis Enrique and his entire coaching staff at the helm of the absolute national team in recent years," the Spanish Football Federation said.

"The [federation] has chosen Luis de la Fuente as the new national coach. The sporting director, Jose Francisco Molina, has transferred a report to the president, Luis Rubiales, in which he recommends the coach to lead the new chapter that begins after the World Cup in Qatar."

The Spanish Football Federation board of directors is expected to decide on approval of the appointment Monday.

Enrique, 52, previously coached at Roma, Celta and Barcelona. He joined Spain as a coach in 2018, but left briefly for personal reasons. He returned in late 2019 and led the team to the Euro 2020 semifinals.

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Spain, the No. 7 team in the world, went 1-1-1 in the 2022 World Cup group stage to finish second to Japan in Group E. It opened the tournament with a 7-0 win over No. 31 Costa Rica and then tied No. 11 Germany 1-1 and lost 2-1 to No. 24 Japan.

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Spain then outshot Morocco 13-6, but put just one attempt on frame in the Round of 16. The team had a 77% to 23% edge in time of possession and made more than three times as many passes (1,019 to 305).

Morocco will battle Portugal in the World Cup quarterfinals at 10 a.m. EST Saturday on Fox.

"The [federation] energetically wishes Luis Enrique and his team the best of luck in their future professional projects," the Spanish Football Federation said.

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"The coach earns the love and admiration of his collaborators in the national team and of the entire federation, which will always be his home."

Fans cheer on World Cup contenders in Qatar

A Morocco fan supports his team while wearing a costume during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Semi-Final match between Morocco and France at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, on December 14, 2022. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo

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