Ar­mada on rough seas

Tur­moil in Span­ish camp ahead of opener against Por­tu­gal

Deccan Chronicle - - BUSINESS -

Sochi, June 14: Spain’s World Cup prepa­ra­tions were thrown into tur­moil as coach Julen Lopetegui was fired on the eve of the tour­na­ment, just two days be­fore their Group ‘B’ open­ing game against pow­er­house Por­tu­gal on Friday.

Lopetegui’s re­place­ment Fernando Hierro sought to quickly adapt to the sit­u­a­tion. “We don’t have time to feel sorry for our­selves. The ob­jec­tive is to fight for a World Cup. The play­ers have been work­ing to­wards this for two years,” he said.

“I’ve told the play­ers that we have a won­der­ful, ex­cit­ing chal­lenge and we can’t let this be an ex­cuse to dis­tract us from our dream,” Hierro added.

How­ever, Por­tu­gal coach Fernando San­tos is con­vinced that Spain will still go far at the World Cup de­spite the tur­bu­lent events of the last 48 hours.

“They will have a great coach in charge in Fernando Hierro. I am not sure ex­actly what is go­ing to hap­pen, but I am sure they will have a great tour­na­ment,” San­tos said on Thursday.

How­ever, San­tos is also clear in his be­lief that Por­tu­gal will not be caught out by any sur­prise Span­ish tac­tics fol­low­ing the last­minute up­heaval.

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s Por­tuguese side come into the game as the reign­ing Eu­ro­pean cham­pi­ons. They are at full strength as they look to achieve some­thing they have not man­aged at a ma­jor tour­na­ment since Euro 2008 — win their open­ing match.

“This is a ‘Clas­sico’”, said San­tos. “We are two coun­tries who have a lot in com­mon, not least the fact we share a bor­der. We are neighbours, but also teams with great qual­ity.”

“Spain are ex­tra­or­di­nary op­po­nents. I don’t think they will change overnight. But we are fo­cused on our strengths. We will take into ac­count those of Spain, and also their weak­nesses, be­cause there are no per­fect teams. We don’t want to be ar­ro­gant but we are full of hope,” he said. — Agen­cies

— AP

Cap­tain and star player Cris­tiano Ron­aldo (cen­tre) prac­tises with his Por­tu­gal team­mates dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion in Kra­tovo on the out­skirts of Moscow.

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