Spain sack Lopetegui, name Hierro as coach

The Hitavada - - WORLD CUP -

SPAIN dra­mat­i­cally sacked coach Julen Lopetegui and ap­pointed fed­er­a­tion sport­ing di­rec­tor Fer­nando Hierro — just two days be­fore the team’s open­ing game at the World Cup.

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

At a se­verely de­layed press con­fer­ence at Spain’s World Cup base in Krasnodar, Span­ish Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion (RFEF) chief Luis Ru­biales ex­pressed dis­may at the tim­ing of events that threaten to de­rail Spain’s World Cup chances.

“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 RFEF 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.”

Spain later named for­mer Madrid cap­tain Hierro as the coach for the tour­na­ment in Rus­sia.

“Fer­nando Hierro will as­sume coach­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at the World Cup in Rus­sia,” the Span­ish foot­ball fed­er­a­tion an­nounced.

The 50-year-old Hierro’s only real coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence came when he was in charge of sec­ond di­vi­sion Span­ish out­fit Oviedo for one sea­son. Lopetegui had signed a con­tract ex­ten­sion un­til 2020 just last month and never tasted de­feat in his 20 games in charge as Spain boss. Spain are due to face Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Por­tu­gal in Sochi on Fri­day be­fore tak­ing on Iran and Morocco in Group B.

There were fears Lopetegui’s ap­point­ment by the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons could open up old di­vi­sions be­tween the Real Madrid and Barcelona fac­tions in the Spain squad.

Fer­nando Hierro

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