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Julen Lopetegui is officially presented as Real Madrid's coach

MADRID Spain (Xinhua) -- Julen Lopetegui has been presented as the new Real Madrid head coach on Thursday at the Presidential Box at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Lopetegui was dismissed as Spain’s national team coach after Real Madrid announced he would replace Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid’s coach after the World Cup.

"Yesterday was the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother," Lopetegui said, and added "but today is the happiest".

"I know I am coming to a place of great demands, and even in giving everything, you can still come up short," the coach said.

"We’re going to do everything in our power to give the best account of ourselves and fight at the level that this club belongs, and even push it higher," he explained.

"I believe I am ready for this adventure and to take the wonderful squad of players we have under my wing," Lopetegui said.

Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, welcomed Lopetegui to the club and praised Lopetegui’s career.

"Today you are coming back home having achieved qualification for the World Cup in Russia with the Spanish national team in fine fashion, not losing in 20 games," Perez said.

Perez explained Real Madrid’s announcement of Lopetegui’s signing just before the World Cup intended to "avoid it being leaked, and for transparency to prevail".

"This is a first in footballing history, that a national coach, having come to an agreement with another team, has been considered to have behaved in a disloyal manner," he said.
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UPDATES:

Coaches agree nothing changes after Lopetegui
as Spain and Portugal go head to head

SOCHI Russia (Xinhua) -- Neither Spain coach Fernando Hierro nor his Portuguese counterpart, Fernando Santos believes the sacking of Julen Lopetegui from the Spanish national team on Wednesday will have much effect on the Spanish play at the World Cup when the two sides go head to head in the Ficsht Stadium in Sochi on Friday night.

What is tipped to be the decisive match of Group B in the World Cup comes after a frantic 48 hours which ended with Lopetegui losing his job after Real Madrid announced on Tuesday he would take over at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Hierro told the press on Thursday that the players had worked well under Lopetegui for the past two years to qualify for Russia and had also prepared intensely for the competition.

"We have to respect the work that has been carried out we trust in our players and we are fully fit and prepared after two weeks of intense work," he commented.

Hierro admitted he had not had much time after his appointment and "so I am not going to change much, we have a clear goal in mind and there are still a lot of the coaching staff, who are still here, you will see the Spain squad you are used to. We have been playing excellent football for a long time now," he said.

The Spanish are likely to line up with David de Gea in goal, while Nacho Fernandez, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba in defense.

Sergio Buaquets will be the midfield lynchpin, supported by Koke, David Silva and Andres Iniesta, with Diego Costa, Iago Aspas, Isco and Lucas Vazquez disputing the last two places in the side.

Meanwhile Santos, who two years ago led Portugal to the European Championship, was also expecting to see the Spain of always.

"Spain has played the same way for 10 years, I don’t think there will be any surprises, what is important is the players," commented Santos.

"It is the opening game for two great sides, with great players and now we will have Fernando Hierro against us," he concluded.

The Portuguese will again put their faith in Cristiano Ronaldo in attack, though Santos highlighted the team was more important than any individual and will field a solid defense built around, Pepe, Bruno Alves and Jose Fonte protected by William Carvalho and Joao Moutinho.

It could well be the irresistible force against the immovable object as Spain look to press and pass their way to victory, while Portugal look from a whiplash strike from Ronaldo to seal the win.

It was tough to call before Lopetegui’s sacking, now it’s even harder.
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Hierro not making changes after Lopetegui departure

SOCHI Russia (Xinhua) -- Fernando Hierro took his seat in the press room in the Fischt Stadium in Sochi, less than 30 hours after being named as the replacement for Julen Lopetegui as Spain coach and around 26 hours before he will lead Spain into their opening game in the 2018 World Cup against Portugal.

Speaking in his first official pre-game press conference as Spain coach, Hierro made it clear he wouldn’t be making many changes to what Lopetegui had done over his two years in charge.

"We have to respect the work that has been carried out in the past two weeks and also the European Champions, but we trust in our players we know we have to realize we are fully fit and prepared after two weeks of intense work," he commented.

"We have not had much time to work and so I am not going to change much, we have a clear goal in mind and there are still a lot of the coaching staff, who are still here, you will see the Spain squad you are used to,"

"We have been playing excellent football for a long time now," said Hierro.

The Spain coach also said that although the Portugal match was vital, it was not the only big game Spain will play in a group which also contains Iran and Morocco.

"I think we have three major games today, against Portugal and then two sides, we have to realize we are privileged to be here and we have to enjoy it, but also to say that we gave everything we have and so we will do that and see how far we can go."

Hierro was accompanied by Spain captain, Sergio Ramos, who said the players wanted to "turn the page as soon as possible," following Lopetegui’s departure.

"I think the sooner we leave this in the past the better, we have to remember our World Cup will start tomorrow and we are starting against the reigning Champions of Europe," he stressed, while insisting there was no division in the dressing room following Lopetegui’s dismissal.

           

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