Soccer-Spain's Luis Enrique lauds his young team for sticking to his plan

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Round of 16 - Morocco v Spain - Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar - December 6, 2022 Spain coach Luis Enrique reacts REUTERS/Pedro Nunes TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

DOHA (Reuters) - Spain coach Luis Enrique lauded his young players after their penalty shootout last-16 World Cup exit at the hands of Morocco on Tuesday, saying they did everything he asked of them except score as the 2010 world champions bowed out in Qatar.

"I am more than satisfied with my team. They represented my ideas and my style and I can only praise for them for their attitude in the whole World Cup," the former Barcelona coach told reporters.

"I would also like to congratulate Morocco for their win. They were better than us in the penalty shootout."

Spain dominated possession against the North Africans who, roared by tens of thousands of red-shirted fans, defended for much of the 120 minutes which ended with no goals before Morocco won the shootout 3-0.

Asked about his future - the coach's contract was due to run until the end of Spain's involvement in the World Cup - he said he did not know what lay ahead but he was very happy to be with the national team.

"This is not the right time to talk about my future," he said. "My contract is going to end, as you know, but I am very happy with the national team."

Luis Enrique first took on the Spain coach role in 2018 after their last-16 World Cup penalty shootout defeat earlier that year to hosts Russia but stood down as his daughter fought a losing battle against cancer. He returned to the job in 2019.

He has been linked with jobs at top European clubs in media reports.

Asked by reporters whether he would have done anything differently in the shootout defeat on Tuesday, he said he would once again back the same three players who failed to convert their spotkicks, two of them saved by Morocco's Yassine Bounou.

"If we had another shootout, I would only change Bounou," he said.

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Toby Davis)

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