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Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Spain sack U-21 boss Luis Milla

Dermot Corrigan

Spanish Olympic coach Luis Milla has paid for a very disappointing Olympic campaign by losing his job as La Roja's Under-21 boss, with current U-19 coach Julen Lopetegui taking charge.

With players like Juan Mata, Javi Martinez, Iker Muniain and David de Gea to call on, Spain were among the pre-tournament favourites for the London 2012 football gold medal, but they scored no goals in three games against Japan, Morocco and Honduras to finish bottom of their group.

A short statement on the Spanish FA's website Tuesday confirmed that Milla - who coached most of the Olympic squad to European Under-21 Championship success last summer - was leaving his post.

"The Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol has decided not to renew the contracts of Luis Milla Aspas, Under-21 coach, or Juan Carlos Martinez Castrejo, physical coach of the same side, which have now ended," the statement said. "The RFEF this morning contacted both to tell them the decision. The RFEF wants to thank them publicly for their work since joining in 2008 and 2009, respectively."

Lopetegui steps up after impressing as Spain's U-19s won this summer's European Championships in July. The former Real Madrid, Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano goalkeeper, 45, will now take charge for the U-21 team's upcoming UEFA qualifying games in Sion against Switzerland on September 6 and against Croatia in Alicante on September 19.

Spain are well placed to qualify for the 2013 finals in Israel, having a 100% record after their first six group games.

Barcelona defender Martin Montoya claims that the players have to take some of the criticism for his country's Olympic failure.

Montoya, 21, thinks it's harsh to push all the blame onto the departed coach, as the squad didn't form to its full potential.

He told Spanish daily sports paper AS: "The fault for the sacking is the players' because we didn't play well and we don't feel good about this. During the tournament we didn't have much luck in front of the opponent's goal and we gave away quick goals. Now we have to work to qualify for the Euros in Israel but I don't think Milla will find it difficult to get a club job because he is a great coach.''

Olympics team-mate Villarreal goalkeeper Diego Marino agreed with the sentiments of Montoya has he accepted that the side didn't help their former coach's cause.

"It was a sacking that I didn't expect, we have only two games to qualify for the Euros and I thought he would continue," admitted Marino. "It is a decision that the federation have taken and it is because they think it is for the best. The results were due to a little bit of everything. We weren't as prepared as we thought or the other teams were much better prepared than us.In the first game we weren't good, but in the other two we deserved better luck, we just didn't get it.''

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