‘We have no time to dwell on Lopetegui sacking’, says Spain replacement Hierro

Fernando Hierro

Fernando Hierro was capped 89 times for Spain

Spain have “no time to dwell” on the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui, said temporary replacement Fernando Hierro.

Lopetegui, 51, was dismissed two days before their first World Cup game after Spanish football chiefs said it was not involved in his negotiations to become Real Madrid boss.

“We’ve come to fight for the World Cup,” said the 50-year-old ex-Spain and Real Madrid defender.

“We have a great opportunity and that should be the focus.”

Spain begin their World Cup campaign against Portugal on Friday in a match live on BBC One (19:00 BST kick-off).

Hierro, who ended his playing career at Bolton in 2004-05, added: “The players are excited, they want this challenge. It’s a challenge for everyone. We have no time to dwell.

“I know they’re going to give 100%. In a World Cup nobody gives anything away. We all know what this means and our responsibilities.”

Spanish football federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales, who revealed he was told of Lopetegui’s new role with Real five minutes before it was announced, said that Hierro was the first choice as a replacement.

Hierro continued: “When the president told me the possibility, I had three choices: to say no, another was to go and the third was to stay – to take a step forward for the Spanish federation and for Spanish football. I couldn’t say no because I would not forgive myself.”

Lopetegui became Spain manager in 2016 following Vicente del Bosque’s retirement, and remained unbeaten through his reign.

Spain won 14 of 20 games with Lopetegui in charge, drawing the remaining six.

According to reports in Spain, Rubiales was incensed when he discovered Lopetegui had agreed a deal with Madrid.

He left a Fifa Congress meeting in Moscow early in order to return to Spain’s base in Krasnodar.

It has been claimed senior players – including captain Sergio Ramos – fought for Lopetegui to remain in charge for the duration of the World Cup.

‘There’s more pressure on players’ – analysis

Former England striker Alan Shearer

I admire their decision. It’s bold, it’s ruthless. I’m pretty sure they must have spoken to a number of players in the squad.

I’m very surprised at the timing of it – two days before their opening game – but they still have an excellent, experienced squad with some top players in it.

Will it affect them? We’ll have to see. As a player, I wouldn’t have liked it – you’ve worked for so long with a system, with a manager and you’re all prepared, and all of a sudden he’s gone.

There’s huge attention on them now, huge questions. Without doubt, there’s more pressure on the players now.

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