Spain urged to win with­out the skip­per

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - KURTIS LAR­SON klar­son@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/kurtlarsun

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.

Cris­tiano Ron­aldo

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