WE WON’T BE CAUGHT OUT - POR­TU­GAL COACH

Por­tu­gal coach says Spain al­ways play same game, de­spite shock of coach exit

Afro Voice (Western Cape) - - Sport -

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, as the sides pre­pare to meet in their open­ing game to­day.

The Ibe­rian neigh- bours clash in Group B in the Rus­sian Black Sea re­sort city of Sochi, with Spain in dis­ar­ray af­ter coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked on Wednesday fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment that he would be leav­ing for Real Madrid at the end of the tour­na­ment.

Fernando Hierro has been hastily put in charge of the 2010 World Cup win­ners, adding ex­tra spice to what was al­ready billed as the stand­out game of the open­ing round.

“They will have a great coach in charge in Hierro.

“I am not sure ex­actly what is go­ing to hap­pen, what team he will send out, but I am sure they will have a great tour­na­ment,” said San­tos at the Fisht Olympic Sta­dium on Thursday.

How­ever, San­tos is also clear in his be­lief that Por­tu­gal will not be caught out by any sur­prise Span­ish tac­tics fol­low­ing the last-minute up­heaval. “Spain have had the same style for a decade now so I don’t think we will have any sur­prises, what mat­ters is that the teams just get on with it now.”

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.

They have not beaten Spain at a ma­jor tour­na­ment since Euro 2004, when as hosts – with a teenage Ron­aldo in their ranks – they won 1-0 to elim­i­nate their neighbours in the group stage.

“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 and 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.”

PIC­TURE: AFP

TAL­IS­MAN: Por­tu­gal’s for­ward Cris­tiano Ron­aldo. WIN AT ALL COSTS: Spain de­fender Ser­gio Ramos.

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