Soccer: Spain keep faith with coach Enrique despite continued absence

(Reuters) – The Spanish football federation (RFEF) on Friday pledged total support to national coach Luis Enrique despite his continued leave of absence due to personal reasons. Enrique missed the Euro 2020 qualifier win over Malta in March and will be unavailable for their two qualifiers against Faroe Islands and Sweden next month, leading to reports in Spanish media that he could be replaced. “As you can see Luis Enrique could not be here for the same reason he could not be at the last game,” Spain sporting director Jose Francisco Molina told a news conference. “He will not be in the training camp as well as in the next two games. “I’ve seen reports this morning. Our commitment to our coach is total and that is what we have transmitted to him. I think it’s mutual. We hope to have him for many years in charge. This is a difficult time for him and he has our support and our complete confidence.” Enrique’s assistant, Robert Moreno, who guided Spain in their 2-0 win over Malta, will continue at the helm. Moreno added Enrique remains very active in the Spanish’s squad selection process and preparations ahead of the qualifiers. “All the decisions that have been made and will be made will be done by Luis Enrique. Luis Enrique has monitored the players, met with us via video conference and looked at games,” Moreno said. “This is like the number 10 of your team getting injured and you have to react and we want to give more to repay Luis Enrique’s trust in us.” CAZORLA RETURNS On Friday, Villarreal midfielder Santi Cazorla earned a recall to the international stage for the first time in four years following a nightmare run of injuries. Cazorla, 34, who has been capped 77 times by Spain and was part of the squad that won Euro 2008 and 2012, made his last international appearance in a Nov. 2015 friendly against England. Former Arsenal playmaker Cazorla, who had skin removed from his forearm and grafted on to his leg after undergoing eight operations on a persistent ankle injury, was told by doctors he would be lucky to walk properly again, let alone return to playing professionally. Injuries forced him to leave Arsenal last year and rejoin Villarreal for a third stint, where he has rediscovered his form and fitness, contributing seven goals and 11 assists in 45 appearances across all competitions. The other surprise inclusions in Enrique’s squad include Real Sociedad duo Diego Llorente and Mikel Oyarzabal, while Iago Aspas and Dani Carvajal have both returned following injury. Spain play away in the Faroe Islands on June 7 before hosting Sweden in Madrid three days later. Full squad: Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Pau Lopez Defenders: Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Mario Hermoso, Diego Llorente, Inigo Martinez, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Jose Luis Gaya, Jesus Navas Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Rodrigo Hernandez, Dani Parejo, Isco, Fabian Ruiz, Santi Cazorla Forwards: Mikel Oyarzabal, Rodrigo Moreno, Marco Asensio, Iago Aspas, Alvaro Morata

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