KRASNODAR, RUSSIA: Spain dramatically sacked coach Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday and appointed federation sporting director Fernando Hierro — just two days before the team´s opening game at the World Cup.
In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, Real Madrid appointed Lopetegui as Zinedine Zidane´s successor to take over 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, Spanish football federation (RFEF) chief Luis Rubiales expressed dismay at the timing of events that threaten to derail Spain´s World Cup chances.
“The national team is the team for all Spaniards and there are some decisions we feel obliged to take to protect some values,” said Rubiales.
“Negotiating is legitimate but it took place without the RFEF being informed until five minutes before a press statement was released. There has to be a message for all workers in the federation that there is a right way to do things.”
Later Wednesday, Spain named Hierro as the coach for the tournament in Russia.
“Fernando Hierro will assume coaching responsibilities at the World Cup in Russia,” the Spanish football federation announced.
The 50-year-old Hierro´s only real coaching experience came when he was in charge of second division Spanish outfit Oviedo for one season.
Lopetegui had signed a contract extension until 2020 just last month and never tasted defeat in his 20 games in charge as Spain boss.
Spain are due to face European champions Portugal in Sochi on Friday before taking on Iran and Morocco in Group B.