Luis Enrique

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Former Spain coach Luis Enrique announces death of daughter

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MADRID (AP) Former Spain and Barcelona coach Luis Enrique says his 9-year-old daughter has died after a five-month battle against a type of bone cancer.

Luis Enrique posted a message on Twitter on Thursday saying “our daughter Xana has passed away this afternoon.” He also thanked supporters for “all of the love received during these months and we appreciate the discretion and understanding.”

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The 49-year-old coach left his job with Spain’s national team in June because of his daughter’s illness. He initially stepped away temporarily and delegated his duties to then assistant coach Robert Moreno, but eventually resigned to focus solely on his family.

Luis Enrique ended his message by saying Xana “will be the star that guides our family.”

Spain coach Luis Enrique steps down for personal reasons

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MADRID (AP) The Spanish soccer federation says Luis Enrique is stepping down as coach of the national team for personal reasons.

Federation president Luis Rubiales says assistant coach Roberto Moreno will take over.

Moreno has been in charge of running of the team since Luis Enrique had to step away for what the federation said were “family reasons” in March.

Since then, Luis Enrique had continued working remotely from his home in Barcelona, receiving video feeds of practices and talking to Moreno and his other assistants.

The former Barcelona coach and player was named Spain coach following last year’s World Cup. He coached the team through the Nations League and its first European Championship qualifier, a 2-1 win over Norway.

Spain has won all three of its European qualifiers with Moreno on the sideline.

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Spain: Luis Enrique staying despite personal problem

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MADRID (AP) The Spanish soccer federation has dismissed concerns about coach Luis Enrique leaving the national team.

The federation has not considered replacing him despite his long absence for personal reasons, it said on Friday.

Luis Enrique missed the first round of qualifiers for the European Championship this year and will miss the next round in June because of an undisclosed personal problem.

“The federation remains fully committed with the coach of the national team,” federation sports director Jose Francisco Molina said. “The federation never considered making a change and our position has been relayed to him. The mutual commitment remains intact. For us there were never any doubts, and we hope to be able to count on the coach for a long time.”

Molina dismissed Spanish media reports the federation was looking for a possible replacement for the coach, and said Luis Enrique has also never showed any sign he was considering leaving the national team.

“It never came up,” Molina said. “The mutual goal is to remain together.”

Molina said there was no timeline for Luis Enrique’s return, adding that during “this difficult moment” the federation is making sure it gives its unconditional support to him.

Neither the federation nor Luis Enrique have disclosed details about the problem that has kept him sidelined since March, when he had to abandon the team camp just before its qualifying match at Malta.

Molina spoke before assistant coach Robert Moreno made the squad announcement for the qualifiers against the Faeroe Islands and Sweden in June.

Moreno said Luis Enrique remains very active and in close communication with his staff, and made all the final decisions regarding the players summoned on Friday. He said the coach will continue to follow the team’s practices and matches remotely.

“He is still working with us, the dynamic remains the same,” said Moreno, who also replaced Luis Enrique on the bench in the first two qualifiers. “We’ll have him close to us throughout the training camp.”

Spain plays at the Faeroe Islands on June 7, then hosts Sweden at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium three days later. It leads Group F with six points, two more than Sweden and three more than both Romania and Malta.

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Luis Enrique calls Spain performance ‘atrocious’ after England loss

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Luis Enrique was not a happy man after Spain fell 3-2 to England in UEFA Nations League Group A play, marking the first home competitive loss for Spain in over 15 years.

The former Barcelona manager conceded that thanks to a second-half improvement, the hosts were actually quite close to a thrilling comeback, but ultimately the first half letdown was too much to overcome.

[ RECAP – England knocks off Spain 3-2 ]

“The first half, atrocious, it has to be recognized,” Enrique told the media after the match. “We arrived late pressing, the first goal killed us. And we made so many individual errors.”

Enrique said that despite the disappointing opening 45 minutes, he did not make any halftime substitutions because he believed the team would improve with an encouraging halftime talk. “I told them [at halftime] great teams have suffered,” Enrique said. “We forced the opposition back, and it’s a shame we didn’t score earlier because we would have had 3-3 and the comeback.”

The Spain boss was especially focused on how the team pressed, blaming that for the first-half struggles but also for the improvement after the break. “I think in the second half we changed everything. We pressed better, and again we were very close.”

Paco Alcacer making most of 2nd chance with Spain

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Close to seeing his career stagnate, Paco Alcacer is making the most of a second chance to become Spain’s top striker.

Alcacer scored twice in his first appearance for Spain in two-and-a-half years to lead a 4-1 away win at Wales in a friendly last week.

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On Monday, the former Barcelona player will likely feature again when Spain hosts England in Seville seeking a second win over Gareth Southgate‘s team in the incipient Nations League.

“I’m happy that I was able to help the team by doing what we strikers are supposed to, which is provide goals,” Alcacer said after Thursday’s match in Cardiff. “I just have to keep this good dynamic going.”

The 25-year-old Alcacer has been rejuvenated since leaving Barcelona on loan for Borussia Dortmund in August, a turnaround that has ended a hiatus from Spain’s national team that was in danger of becoming a permanent adios.

Previous to his two goals for Spain against Wales, Alcacer had scored seven times in a four-match scoring run for Dortmund. That streak included netting a spectacular hat trick that he completed on the last kick of the game for a 4-3 win over Augsburg.

Ironically, Alcacer’s slide toward oblivion at Barcelona began under current Spain coach Luis Enrique when he was condemned to a reserve role behind the superstar trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in 2016-17.

Not even Neymar’s departure at the start of last season changed the situation at Camp Nou for Alcacer. Favoring other players, new coach Ernesto Valverde gave him fewer appearances than Luis Enrique.

So Alcacer decided that his best option was to leave Spain and try his luck in Germany.

And it turned out that Alcacer just needed a chance to play.

With his brace against Wales, Alcacer showed his leading quality as a striker. He is not the fastest, the strongest, nor the slickest passer; he is a pure goal scorer who excels at putting one-touch shots in-between the posts.

Against Wales, Alcacer fired a rising right-footed shot into the near corner for the lead- and his first goal with Spain since Oct. 2015. He then put the win beyond doubt by poaching a clearance in the area to make it 3-0.

“Alcacer is playing superbly because he is on a scoring streak, but overall his attitude has been marvelous,” said Luis Enrique, who called Alcacer up to fill the void left by the injured Diego Costa.

Alcacer was not supposed to need a comeback story.

Four years ago, former Spain manager Vicente del Bosque considered Alcacer, along with Alvaro Morata, as his strikers of the future. The then Valencia player led Spain in qualifying for the 2016 European championship with five goals, but when he struggled to score for his club in the run-up to the tournament Del Bosque dropped him from his squad.

Banished to the bench following his move to Barcelona from Valencia, Alcacer was also ignored by Julen Lopetegui in his two-year tenure that took Spain to last summer’s World Cup.

Circumstances, however, have put Alcacer in good position to now succeed for “La Roja.”

While competition remains fierce in the positions of midfielder and playmaker for Spain, the striker job is up for grabs.

Long gone are the days when David Villa and Fernando Torres flourished up front for the 2010 world champions, as both Costa and Morata have failed to show they can be counted on for goals.

Alcacer said that he had been preparing for this return to his best form.

“It’s about several things,” he said, “about getting on a hot streak, about self-confidence, about having playing time, and, above all, about working each day when you are not playing so you can be ready.”

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