Rassie, is that you? Innovative Spain coach's Erasmus-esque FIFA World Cup tech tools

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Spain Head Coach Luis Enrique. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Spain Head Coach Luis Enrique. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

During Spain's 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica in their World Cup opener it was explicitly clear Luis Enrique's players know where on the pitch they should be and what they need to do, at all times.

The coach is set on positional play and retaining possession, and has been innovative in his use of technology and outside-the-box thinking to get his players to operate within his set structure.

When Spain train, both at home in Las Rozas on the outskirts of Madrid and at the University of Qatar in Doha, Luis Enrique sometimes stands on a scaffold tower, which he asked to be constructed.

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It's a tactic he has been using since coaching Celta Vigo in 2013. It's also a tactic akin to SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus' innovative coaching methods he deployed when he coached the Free State Cheetahs soon after retiring from rugby.

Erasmus would use traffic lights to indicate what moves or plays his team should initiate while he perched like an owl atop the stadium on game day.

It led to the Cheetahs winning two Currie Cup titles under the Rugby World Cup-winning former 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, he can instruct them via walkie-talkie.

"Today, for example, I decided that the strikers will wear them and we have had much calmer communication," Luis Enrique explained on his Twitch channel last week - with live-streaming another example of his technology use at the tournament.

"I don't talk to them when the play is in motion, because they don't need to think that I'm running after them, but when the move is over, if there's something to correct, I'll correct it."

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It saves the coach having to shout and facilitates easy communication without players having to leave their positions before running an exercise again.

"Where we see technology being applied most in training is in the national team," said Spain defender Eric Garcia in September.

"Technology is advancing, and is being implemented in football bit by bit.

"These things are effective, with walkie-talkies the coach is correcting us from a distance."

Video learning

As a rugby player, Rassie was one of the first Springboks to be enamoured with technology in a way that even his former men's national team head coach Nick Mallett admitted was well ahead of his time.

Back in Madrid there is a giant screen at Spain's training ground for Luis Enrique to run through moves on, another technique to give instant and clear feedback to players.

"We train more on video than on the pitch," Luis Enrique said on Twitch.

"There are players who do things with their clubs that are very different to what we ask, but we have seen when they come with us they do brilliantly."

Barcelona's midfield trio of Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Gavi have impressed for their club this season but raised their game to another level against Costa Rica.

Spain players use electric scooters to move between their accommodation and the training pitch, 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 to the Spanish public, with upwards of 150,000 people tuning in, allowing him to be the focus of attention instead of his squad.

"I like computers, at 21 when I arrived at Real Madrid, the first thing I did was buy one," he told his viewers.

"My team-mates told me 'but you don't even know how to turn it on'. (I said) well, don't worry, some day I will learn.

"I've always liked technology. I remember being one of the first players to get on the Internet, working out emails and helping everyone else. I've always liked it.

"Now I'm an old geezer who doesn't know how to work the Bluetooth on his headphones."

However, his use of technology to help bolster Spain's bid to win a second World Cup implies otherwise, with Germany next up on Sunday.

Despite defeat by Japan, Hansi Flick's side should offer a sterner test than Ecuador and it will be a chance for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists to see if Luis Enrique's plan works against teams great and small.

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