Armada on rough seas
Turmoil in Spanish camp ahead of opener against Portugal
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
Captain and star player Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) practises with his Portugal teammates during a training session in Kratovo on the outskirts of Moscow.