Spain urged to win without the skipper
Spanish coach Julen LopMOSCOW etegui was spotted hugging players and staff Thursday morning before exiting team camp for the airport.
Soccer publication Marca reported the incoming Real Madrid bench boss told his players to keep going in his absence after Spain’s soccer association dismissed him for agreeing to a pre-contract with Losblancos.
“Win the World Cup and let this make you stronger,” Lopetegui told his players, according to Marca.
Fernando Hierro took charge 36 hours ahead of Spain’s opening clash with rival Portugal.
PORTUGAL ‘NOT FAVOURITES’
Ahead of his country’s massive Group B opener Friday against Spain, Portugal legend Deco said the defending European champs enter this tournament level with Englandandfrance.
“Germany, no question, will be one of the favourites,” Deco told Express. “We understand that Portugal are not favourites, but it’s good.”
Asked if this could be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final World Cup, Deco added “with Ronaldo, you never know. It depends how fit he will be at the next World Cup.
“It’s complicated because there is a time for everyone, even those super fit like him.”
GERMANS WILL BE JEERED
Apairofhigh-profilegermans are expected to hear jeers Sunday when they open against Mexico.
Germany’s Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan — both of Turkish descent — remain under fire after cosying up to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a photo that reverberated across the country. Die Mannschaft fans contend Erdogan’s politics and actions don’t reflect German values.
“They will possibly be accompanied by some whistles.” German coach Joachim Low said, according to Reuters. “OK, it is what it is. I cannot influence the whistles. I would have liked it differently, but myjobistogetthemintotheflow and help our team.”
Ozil hasn’t addressed the photo and didn’t appear in Germany’s previous two warm-up fixtures.
Gundogan took to Instagram, writing he still enjoys playing for the defending champs despite being booed in a recent friendly. LOOKING AHEAD
As the World Cup kicked off Thursday in Moscow, European media was looking ahead to 2030.
FIFA Council representative David Gill of England said the World Cup needs to return to UEFA following Qatar in 2022 and CanadaU.s.-mexico in 2026.
Specifically, whispers are a “united” UEFA bid could be in the cards whenever FIFA gets around to awarding the 2030 hosting rights.