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Spain will still give it their all

Players unaffected by Lopetegui’s sacking on eve of World Cup says FA chief

  • Julen LopeteguiImage Credit: AP
  • Luis RubialesImage Credit: AP
Gulf News

Dubai: Spain FA chief Luis Rubiales said there would be no mutiny in camp after his shock decision to sack national team coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of World Cup, on Wednesday.

“I have spoken with the players and I can guarantee they will do everything, along with the new coach, to take the team as far as possible,” said Rubiales.

Spain sacked Lopetegui the day after Real Madrid announced that he would replace Zinedine Zidane after the World Cup on a three-year deal.

Real’s announcement came just three days before Spain kick-off their World Cup campaign against Portugal in Sochi on Friday, and it obviously didn’t sit well with the FA.

“We only found out just five minutes before the announcement that he was leaving for Madrid,” added Rubiales.

“There is a way that you must act. Julen has worked in a great way with the team, but we cannot accept how he has acted in this case.

“We had to react, I know that whatever I do I will be criticised, I accept that,” said Rubiales on the timing of his decision.

“To win is very important, to have the best coach very important, but above everything is acting in the right way. Maybe this is tough now, but in the end it will make us stronger.”

Former Spain and Real Madrid defender Fernando Hierro was almost immediately sworn in as Lopetegui’s successor, and is now given the unenviable task of preparing the 2010 champions with less than 48 hours to go until their opener.

Hierro was Spain’s sporting director from 2007 to 2011, and returned to the role late last year, so he does, at least, have some prior knowledge of the inner workings of the side.

Nevertheless this is far from perfect preparation for the national team, who were considered 6/1 favourites ahead of this fiasco.

Plenty of national team coaches have made questionable pre-tournament agreements with club sides in the past such as Luis Van Gaal, who announced he was joining Manchester United after Holland ahead of World Cup 2014, and Antonio Conte, who committed himself to Chelsea after Italy before Euro 2016.

However, those deals, unlike this one, were done with the consent and prior knowledge of their employers, and both were allowed to continue until the end of the tournament.

Holland went on to finish third in 2014 and Italy crashed out in the quarters of Euro 2016. Both Van Gaal and Conte enjoyed mixed fortunes moving on with United and Chelsea.

There is no recent precedent of a national team coach being sacked just ahead of a major tournament for agreeing to join a club after the competition, but Lopetegui’s case has drawn parallels to similar pre-event fallouts.

Captain Roy Keane famously walked out of Ireland’s camp ahead of the 2002 World Cup after a bust-up with coach Mick McCarthy, and at World Cup 2010 Nicholas Anelka was sent home after a row with France coach Raymond Domenech.

Ireland galvanised and went on to reach the last 16, whereas France imploded finishing bottom of their group after Patrice Evra led a mutiny and the players refused to train in protest of Anelka’s axing.

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