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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 
Fernando Hierro to coach Spain during World Cup

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed on Wednesday that Fernando Hierro will be the coach of the Spanish national team for the 2018 World Cup following the decision to sack Julen Lopetegui earlier in the day.

Meanwhile Spain captain, Sergio Ramos used his twitter account to send a message of unity after what have been 24 chaotic hours for the Spain squad.

“We are Spain, we represent our badge, our colors, our supporters and our country. Our responsibility and commitment is to you and for you, yesterday, today and tomorrow, together,” tweeted the defender, who will have Lopetegui as his coach at Real Madrid next season.

Lopetegui was fired just hours after Real Madrid had confirmed he would be their new first team coach for the coming season, despite Lopetegui having only recently agreed to a new contract to lead the Spanish national team until 2020.

The decision to show Lopetegui the door came just 48 hours ahead of Spain’s World Cup opener against Portugal in Sochi, leaving little time to find a replacement.

A former Spain and Real Madrid legend as a player, Hierro had been working as the Director of Sport for the RFEF and has the advantage of being already on the ground in Russia and knowing the players well because of his position with the RFEF, although he has only limited experience as a first team coach.

Hierro coached second division side Real Oviedo in the 2016-2017 campaign, having a moderately successful season, but failing to lead the club to promotion to the Liga Santander. He left after just a year in charge to join the RFEF for a second spell as Director of Sport.

He will have just two training sessions with the team before Spain kick off their World Cup campaign.

Following the World Cup, he will almost certinly step down, with former Malaga and Getafe boss Michel Gonzalez and current Under-21 boss Albert Celades the two favorites to take over on a long-term basis.

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EARLIER REPORTS:

Did Lopetegui leave Spain with no choice?

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- The World Cup is still 24 hours from kicking off and already we have what promises to be one of the most important stories of the tournament as Spain decided to sack Julen Lopetegui as coach.

The sacking comes less than 24 hours after Real Madrid confirmed that Lopetegui, who less than a month ago signed a contract to lead Spain into the 2020 European Championships, would be their next first team coach, taking up the post as soon as the World Cup finishes.

Speaking in the press conference in which he announced Lopetegui’s sacking, Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales was strongly critical of the way the coach had acted.

“The negotiation (with Real Madrid) happened without the Federation being given any information. We only found out five minutes before Real Madrid issued their press communique,” he said, adding that the Spanish football team “belongs to everyone in Spain and there are decisions we are obliged to take.”

“We have to send a message to the workers at the RFEF that there is way you have to act and although Julen has worked magnificently for us, the way this has happened means we had to take a decision,” he added.

The fact that Lopetegui had just renewed his deal with Spain will be seen by many as a betrayal, and the decision is bound to divide Spaniards, given that it leaves Spain without a coach just 48 hours before they play Portugal in Sochi.

Some will think Rubiales has ‘cut off his nose to spite his face,’ carrying out an action which will do even more harm than the news of Lopetegui’s imminent departure.

However, many will believe that Lopetegui left him with little alternative other than to show him the door: the coach was clearly involved in negotiations with Real Madrid during the 10 days following Zinedine Zidane’s departure from the Santiago Bernabeu.

If Lopetegui was thinking about Real Madrid, then he clearly wasn’t giving all of his attention to Spain in the days prior to flying out to Russia.

Had he continued as Spain boss for the duration of the World Cup, there is also a question over how much attention he was giving to the job at hand, and how much he was thinking about planning Real Madrid’s squad for the season ahead (after a summer which promises to see the club carry out a lot of activity in the transfer market).

Rubiales was keen to play down accusations that he had been betrayed by Lopetegui’s decision saying: “I don’t feel betrayed, but it’s another thing the way (he) has carried out things, he was working for the Spanish Football Federation, and the way you do things is important.”

The decision also raises huge issues about the unity in the Spanish squad. Spanish media report that one reason the news of Lopetegui’s move to Real Madrid was confirmed before the World Cup was that the 6 Madrid players in the Spain squad knew of the decision and a non-Madrid player found out, meaning it had to be made official before it was leaked.

The fact that 6 members of the squad possibly knew what would happen and were trying (probably told by Madrid) to keep the story to themselves will do little to strengthen unity in the squad ahead of a tournament where unity is vital, as their companions now can’t fully trust them.

Ad as for Real Madrid, their actions will only serve to make them more unpopular with fans of other clubs. The action has to be seen as putting their interests ahead of those of Spain, which although it makes sense in many ways, has to be criticized from a moral standpoint.

Lopetegui will now fly back to Madrid where he will begin his new job, but he has to have some regrets. Very few coaches have the chance to lead their country into the World Cup finals, and he was 48 hours from doing so. For all that Real Madrid and their riches could have offered him, they could not have given him that chance. And he will never have that opportunity again.

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UPDATE:

Spanish Football Federation names Fernando as coach for World Cup

MOSCOW,  (Xinhua) -- The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed on Wednesday that Fernando Hierro will be the coach of the Spanish national team for the 2018 World Cup following the decision to sack Julen Lopetegui earlier on the day.

           

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