Russia 2018: Spain appoint Fernando Hierro as new coach 24 hours before World Cup kick off

The Spanish football federation (RFEF) has appointed its sporting director, Fernando Hierro, as replacement for sacked national team coach, Julen Lopetegui.

Lopetegui, 51, was sacked on Wednesday, 24 hours to the start of the 2018 World Cup in Russia where the Spanish team is already getting set for their opener with Portugal on Friday.

RFEF said Lopetegui, who was announced as Real Madrid’s new boss on Tuesday, said the negotiations with the Madrid club took place without its knowledge.

Lopetegui will take over from Zinedine Zidane at the Bernabeu on a three-year deal.

Hierro, a former Real Madrid and Bolton Wanderers defender will take charge of Spain at the World Cup.

He is in his second spell as sporting director, having returned to the role in November 2017, six years after leaving the position.

RFEF president Luis Rubiales, who was told of Lopetegui’s new role five minutes before it was announced, said he had found himself in “a very difficult situation”.

“I know there’s going to be criticism whatever I do,” he added.

“I’m sure this will, in time, make us stronger. I admire Julen very much, I respect him very much. He seems a top trainer and that makes it harder to make the decision.

“You can’t do things this way, two or three days before the World Cup. We have been compelled to make this decision.”

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.


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