Spain DUMPS COACH
With only two days to go before Spain's opening match at the World Cup, Julen Lopetegui was fired as national team coach after accepting a job to lead Real Madrid next season.
Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales, who made the announcement on Wednesday in Krasnodar, later said Fernando Hierro would replace Lopetegui as coach for Spain's match against Portugal on Friday.
The 50-year-old Hierro, a former national team player and Real Madrid captain, will be taking on his first major coaching job. He had been acting as the federation's sports director and was already in Russia with the national team.
"I couldn't have said 'no,' I wouldn't forgive myself," Hierro said. "We still have a great opportunity in front of us. We have to remain positive and move forward."
Rubiales said firing Lopetegui wasn't the best solution but it was needed after the federation was caught by surprise by Madrid's announcement.
"The federation cannot be left out of a negotiation by one of its workers and be informed five minutes before the press release," Rubiales said. "We have been compelled to act."
Rubiales, who took over as president last month, said Lopetegui disrespected the federation's values and it was the only decision he could make.
"It's a difficult situation, but we are not the ones who determined the action that had to be taken. The federation has its values and it has to maintain them," Rubiales said. "It may look like a weakness now, but with time this will make us stronger."
Rubiales said he tried to keep the Madrid announcement from being made public but it wasn't possible. He said he had to make the decision — which was supported by the federation's board of directors — to "send a clear message" that things have to be done properly even as Spanish players reportedly tried to persuade Rubiales to change his mind.
"We are the national team. We represent this emblem, these colours, our fans, a country," captain Sergio Ramos tweeted."Our responsibility and commitment is to you. Yesterday, today and tomorrow, together."
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