Moscow, June 13 (IANS) Spain’s preparations for the FIFA World Cup have been hit hard a day before the tournament kicks off with the Spanish Football Federation, RFEF confirming on Wednesday that Fernando Hierro will be the head coach of the national team following the decision to sack Real Madrid-bound Julen Lopetegui earlier in the day.
Lopetegui was fired just hours after Real Madrid had confirmed that he would be their new first team coach for the coming season, despite Lopetegui having only recently agreed to a new contract to lead the Spanish national team until 2020 and remained unbeaten in 20 games, reports Xinhua news agency.
The decision to show Lopetegui the door came just 48 hours ahead of Spain’s World Cup opener against Portugal in Sochi, leaving little time to find a replacement.
RFEF President Luis Rubiales said in a shock presser that he had lost confidence in Lopetegui after learning about the news five minutes before it was made public by La Liga powerhouse Real Madrid.
“We have been forced to break our agreement. The Spain team is the team of all the Spaniards, you can not do things this way, 2-3 days before the World Cup. We have been forced to make this decision with Julen Lopetegui, who has done an impeccable job,” Rubiales said.
“But we cannot accept this behaviour. This has been done without our knowledge. I do not feel betrayed. But this is how it must be.”
Spain are in Group B of the World Cup, alongside Portugal, Iran and Morocco. Spain will begin their campaign against Portugal on Friday.
The line-up, which features the likes of Diego Costa, Sergio Ramos, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva and Gerard Piqué, is tasked with emulating Spain’s 2010 World Cup winning feat. But the current situation will mar their campaign.
The task of quickly settling into the new job will be on Hierro, a Spain and Real Madrid legend as a player. The 50-year-old Hierro had been working as the Director of Sport for the RFEF and has the advantage of being already on the ground in Russia and knowing the players well, although he has only limited experience as a first team coach.
“We are in a very difficult situation, but the players and the new coaching staff will do everything in their power to take us to the furthest,” Rubiales said.
Hierro coached second division side Real Oviedo in the 2016-2017 campaign, having a moderately successful season, but failing to lead the club to promotion to the La Liga. He left after just a year in charge to join the RFEF for a second spell as Director of Sport.
Hierro, who played 89 times for Spain, will have just two training sessions with the team before Spain kick off their World Cup campaign.
Following the World Cup, he will almost certainly step down, with former Malaga and Getafe boss Michel Gonzalez and current Under-21 boss Albert Celades the two favourites to take over on a long-term basis.
Meanwhile Spain captain Sergio Ramos used his Twitter account to send a message of unity after what have been 24 chaotic hours for the Spain squad.
“We are Spain, we represent our badge, our colours, our supporters and our country. Our responsibility and commitment is to you and for you, yesterday, today and tomorrow, together,” tweeted the central defender, who will have Lopetegui as his coach at Real Madrid next season.