Fernando Hierro ready to lead Spain at World Cup following last-minute sacking of former coach

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Fernando Hierro insists he will “bravely” take on the challenge of managing Spain at the World Cup after being appointed on the eve of the tournament.

Former coach Julen Lopetegui was dramatically sacked just two days before Spain’s opening Group B clash against Portugal, throwing their preparations into turmoil.

Following Tuesday’s announcement Lopetegui would leave to take over at Real Madrid after the finals in Russia, Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales decided to remove him from his post before a ball had even been kicked.

Rubiales had been riled by being told of Lopetegui’s decision to take the Real job just five minutes before it was made public.

Former Spain captain Hierro will now step across from his role as director of football to lead the national team though the World Cup.

The ex-Real Madrid defender knows he can have little influence on the way the team is prepared to enter the tournament but will do the best he can with the hand he has been dealt.

“It is a nice challenge and an exciting one,” he told reporters at a press conference in Krasnador.

“The circumstances are what they are and from now on I accept the responsibility bravely, it can’t be any other way.

Lopetegui lost his job on the eve of the World Cup
Lopetegui lost his job on the eve of the World Cup (Adam Davy/PA)

“We cannot alter two years of hard work in the coming days – from now until the Portugal match, we don’t have the ability to change much.

“They key is to change as little as possible. We cannot change anything in two days.”

Earlier in the day, Spain delayed a press conference at the same venue by well over an hour before Rubiales announced he had dismissed Lopetegui – pointing the finger of blame at Real Madrid, rather than the outgoing coach.

“We have been forced to dispense with the national coach. We wish him the best of luck,” he said.

“I don’t want to get into how Real Madrid should go about things. The Spanish team is the team of all Spain.

“If it had been up to Julen it wouldn’t have happened in this way and I wouldn’t have found out five minutes beforehand.

“The negotiation occurred without the RFEF having any information. (We were told) just five minutes before the press release. We have a way of behaving that needs to be adhered to.

“Obviously there was some sort of problem with communication but we can’t be expected to find out about something like this five minutes (before the announcement) and not take the necessary decisions.”

On Wednesday evening the federation said Carlos Marchena, Julian Calero and Juan Carlos Martinez Castrejon would offer assistance to Hierro in Russia, with Calero acting as his immediate number two.

Bolton v Inter Milan
Fernando Hierro during his spell at Bolton under Sam Allardyce (Martin Rickett/PA Images).

Allardyce told Sky Sports News: “As a person, as a man, he was a top, top guy. Around the dressing room and on the field he commanded so much respect, not just for his talent as a footballer but his human-being skills and what a person he was.

“I don’t think he’ll have any problem integrating into the team as their coach. His passion for football is unquestionable and he’ll hopefully pass that over to his players and it won’t be too big a loss losing their coach to Real Madrid.”

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