The Spain coach, Luis Enrique. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
During Spain’s 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica on their World Cup debut, it was made explicitly clear that Luis Enrique’s players know where they need to be on the pitch and what they need to do, at all times.
The coach is focused on positional play and retention of possession, and has been innovative in his use of technology and creative thinking to get his players to operate within his established structure.
When Spain trains, both at home in Las Rozas, on the outskirts of Madrid, and at Qatar University in Doha, Luis Enrique sometimes stands on scaffolding, which he asked to be built.
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It’s a tactic he’s been using since coaching Celta Vigo in 2013. It’s also a tactic similar to SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’s innovative coaching methods he implemented when he coached the Free State Cheetahs shortly after retire from rugby.
Erasmo used the traffic lights to indicate what moves or plays his team should start while he perched like an owl on top of the stadium on game day.
He led the Cheetahs to two Currie Cup titles under former Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok head coach in 2005 and 2006.
From above, Enrique has a better view of the players’ positions and, using microphones on the back of their training vests, can instruct them via walkie-talkie.
“Today, for example, I decided that the strikers will use them and we have had much calmer communication,” Luis Enrique explained on his Twitch channel last week, with a live broadcast, another example of his use of technology in the tournament. .
“I don’t talk to them when the play is in motion, because they don’t need to think I’m chasing them, but when the play is over, if there’s something to correct, I correct it. “
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It prevents the coach from having to shout and facilitates communication without the players having to leave their positions before re-running an exercise.
“Where we see technology being applied the most in training is in the national team,” Spanish defender Eric Garcia said in September.
“Technology advances and is being implemented in football little by little.
“These things are effective, with walkie-talkies the coach corrects us from a distance.”
As a rugby player, Rassie was one of the first Springboks to fall in love with technology in a way that even his former men’s national team head coach, Nick Mallett, admitted was way ahead of his time.
Back in Madrid, there is a giant screen in Spain’s training ground for Luis Enrique to repeat the movements, another technique to give instant and clear feedback to the players.
“We train more on video than on the field,” said Luis Enrique on Twitch.
There are players who do things with their clubs that are very different from what we ask them to do, but we have seen that when they come to us they do it brilliantly”.
Barcelona’s midfield trio of Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Gavi have impressed for their club this season, but they took their game to another level against Costa Rica.
Spain’s players use electric scooters to get between their accommodation and the training ground, meaning the amount of time they have to spend cooped up in the team bus is shorter than ever at the World Cup.
Luis Enrique’s near-nightly Twitch streams have also helped him connect with the Spanish public, with more than 150,000 people tuning in, allowing him to be the center of attention rather than his team.
“I like computers. At the age of 21, when I arrived at Real Madrid, the first thing I did was buy one,” he told his viewers.
“My colleagues told me ‘but you don’t even know how to turn it on’. (I said) well, don’t worry, someday I’ll learn.
“I’ve always loved technology. I remember being one of the first players to go online, solving emails and helping everyone else. I’ve always liked it.
“Now I’m an old man who doesn’t know how to get Bluetooth to work on his headphones.”
However, their use of technology to help bolster Spain’s bid to win a second World Cup implies otherwise, with Germany following on Sunday.
Despite the loss to Japan, Hansi Flick’s side should offer a tougher test than Ecuador and will be a chance for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists to see if Luis Enrique’s plan works against teams big and small.