Spain sack coach Ex-captain Hierro named to replace Lopetegui on the eve of World Cup

Sports | 14 Jun 2018

Spain dramatically sacked coach Julen Lopetegui - just days before the team's opening game against Portugal at the football World Cup in Russia.

Former captain Fernando Hierro will coach the team for the tournament despite having limited coaching experience.

In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, Real Madrid appointed Lopetegui as Zinedine Zidane's successor to take over after the World Cup, sparking outrage among the federation and Spanish fans at the timing of the announcement.

Spanish football federation chief Luis Rubiales expressed his dismay at the timing of events that threaten to derail the team's campaign.

"The national team is the team for all Spaniards and there are some decisions we feel obliged to take to protect some values," said Rubiales. "Negotiating is legitimate but it took place without the [federation]being informed until five minutes before a press statement was released. There has to be a message for all workers in the federation that there is a right way to do things."

Lopetegui had signed a contract extension until 2020 just last month and never tasted defeat in his 20 games in charge as Spain boss.

Hierro, 50, will now lead Spain when they face Portugal in Sochi on Saturday (HK time) before taking on Iran and Morocco in Group B. "We are going to change as little as possible," said Rubiales.

There were fears Lopetegui's appointment by the European champions could open up old divisions between the Real and Barcelona factions in the Spain squad. For the first time since 2006, there are more players from Madrid in the squad for a major tournament, with a six-strong Real contingent and just Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets from Barca.

However, the players reportedly tried to intervene at the last minute to prevent Rubiales sacking Lopetegui.

"I have spoken with the players and what I can guarantee is that the players will do everything in their power, along with the new technical team to take the team as far as possible," said Rubiales.

Spain are among the favorites to lift the trophy but the astonishing developments of the past two days could have a devastating affect on their chances.


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