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New Spain coach bids triumphant farewell as youth boss

By Simon Baskett
© Reuters Limited

Inaki Saez, the new coach of the Spanish national team, made a triumphant farewell as youth team boss by guiding his under-19 side to victory in the European championships in Oslo at the weekend.

Saez, who was appointed coach of the senior team following Jose Antonio Camacho's decision to step down after the World Cup, added yet another title to his impressive collection when he watched his side claim a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Germany in Sunday's final.

"I have always said that winning a championship is like a good letter of introduction for a new job, and it is especially good as I have recently been named coach of the senior team," Saez was quoted as saying by El Pais on Monday.

"We did a great job, the players were very serious and they got better and better as the championship wore on," he said. "In the end we were worthy winners."

Spain's Sergio ( background) tackles Germany's Alexander Meyer during their UEFA U-19 Championships match.
Photo Morten Holm, Reuters
Saez has enjoyed an unprecedented period of success since taking over as coach of the Spanish youth sides in 1996.

He steered the under-21s to victory in the European championships in 1998 and then led the under-20s to the World Youth title the following year.

The former Athletic Bilbao defender has also overseen three under-16 European championship victories since he took charge and led the Spanish team to a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

But the 59-year-old Basque will now turn his attentions exclusively to the senior side, who have consistently failed to achieve the sort of success enjoyed by the country's youth teams.

His first task will be to select a side for a friendly against Hungary in late August as part of the preparation for qualification for the 2004 European Championships which get underway in September.

Saez made it clear that although he will be using the core of the team that reached the quarter-finals of the recent 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ for his new squad he would be also adding some of the young players who he has had under his wing in recent years.

"I have got a list of players in my head, " he said. "But it is too long and now I have to find out who is in form so that I select the squad.

"I will certainly be adding some players that I know well and who have always responded for me at key moments."

Spain have been drawn together with Ukraine, Greece, Northern Ireland and Armenia in their Euro 2004 qualifying group.

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