Spain sacks coach on eve of World Cup
KRASNODAR, Russia (UPDATED) – Spain sacked coach Julen Lopetegui on the even of the 2018 World Cup – and just two days before the team's opening game against Portugal – Spanish football federation chief Luis Rubiales confirmed on Wednesday, June 13.
In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, Real Madrid named Lopetegui as their next coach to start work after the tournament in Russia, sparking outrage among the federation and Spanish fans at the timing of the announcement.
At a severely delayed press conference at Spain's World Cup base in Krasnodar, Rubiales appeared to say he felt Lopetegui's decision to join Madrid so close to the start of the tournament "obliged" him to take drastic action.
"I am here to say that we feel obliged to sack the national team manager," said Rubiales.
Lopetegui had signed a contract extension until 2020 just last month and Rubiales is reportedly angry at only being informed of his decision to join Real minutes before the European champions made the announcement public.
Hours later, Spain named federation sporting director Fernando Hierro as Lopetegui's replacement.
The 50-year-old Hierro's only real coaching experience, though, came when he was in charge of second division Spanish outfit Oviedo for one season.
"Fernando Hierro will assume coaching responsibilities at the World Cup in Russia," the Spanish football federation announced.
Lopetegui was appointed Spain's coach in July 2016 and never tasted defeat in the job, leading the team through 20 unbeaten games ahead of the World Cup.
La Roja were among the favorites to lift the trophy this summer but this astonishing upheaval, so close to the tournament, will surely affect the players.
There were fears his appointment could open up old divisions between the Real Madrid and Barcelona factions in the Spain squad.
For the first time since 2006, there are more players from Madrid in a Spanish squad for a major tournament, with a 6-strong Real contingent and just Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets from Barca.
However, according to reports in the Spanish media, the players tried to intervene at the last minute to prevent Rubiales sacking Lopetegui. – Rappler.com