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Spain Manager Lopetegui Sacked Hours Before World Cup

- 11:06, 13th June 2018
Lopetegui becomes the new Real Madrid Head Coach after the World Cup

We are just over 24 hours away from the start of the 2018 World Cup and Spain have sacked manager Julen Lopetegui 48 hours before their first World Cup Group B match against Iberian Penisular rivals, Portugal.

Julen Lopetegui was sacked for failing to communicate to the Spanish Football Federation until five minutes before the official announcement that the former Rayo Vallecano and Porto manager would become Head Coach at Real Madrid after the World Cup had finished which proved to be a breach of his contract.

President of the Federation, Luis Rubiales, was clear that Lopetegui disrespected the values of the Spanish Football Federation by refusing to be upfront with his employees about his agreement with Los Blancos.

Players defended the managers’ position, especially the Real Madrid squad members representing La Roja in Russia, but this was not enough to save Lopetegui from his reign for Spain being focussed primarily on the plane.

What Does This Mean for Spain’s World Cup Chances?

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In what many see as an act of self-destruction, the Spanish side will ultimately suffer with the departure of the man who has seen the team enter the World Cup with the longest unbeaten run in International Football.

Lopetegui’s record for the Spanish national side was one of success as the 51-year-old was undefeated as the head of La Roja in 20 matches. Lopetegui managed to blend the old heads of Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets with promotions for players such as Isco and Lucas Vasquez to change the style of football ever so slightly from the Spanish DNA.

Lopetegui’s assistant, Fernando Hierro is the logical man to take charge of the team and at lunch time on Wednesday 13 June, he was announced to take over during the competition. However, Fernando Hierro’s manager capabilities stretch no further that guiding Real Oviedo to an 8th place finish in the Segunda Division in the 2016/17 season.

The disarray this will put into the Spanish camp is far from ideal with their most difficult group stage match against Portugal coming very soon. Admittedly, the players within the squad have enough experience to still mount a strong challenge in Russia, but the change in personnel this close to the tournament disrupts the team’s preparations.

Since the announcement of Julen Lopetegui’s departure from the national team, bookies have lowered the odds from 6/1 to 7/1 to win the World Cup outright showing that punters still have faith in the squad to give a strong performance in Russia and the confirmation that Fernando Hierro will take control of the team will have settled the markets.

Fernando Hierro was one of the stars of Spanish football during the 90s and early 00s along with the likes of Raul and Fernando Morrientes. Many in the Spanish team, will have looked up to Hierro while they were growing up and will be happy to work with a man who clearly has similar methods to Lopetegui from working under him for the past couple of years.

Will Spain Self-Destruct?

The initial reaction to the news was that Spain were hitting the self-destruct button before the tournament began and that we were about to witness the token World Cup meltdown unravel before our very eyes.

France are the usual suspects when it comes to squads tearing apart, but here I don’t believe we are seen a catastrophe unfold. The squad are united in their support for Lopetegui and unless senior members of the team go public with their concerns and start striking, then I think La Roja will avoid disaster here.

If anything, the relationship between the Spanish Football Federation and Real Madrid will have deteriorated in this saga with Los Blancos President Florentino Perez clearly putting Real Madrid ahead of the national team. Real Madrid didn’t have to announce their manager three days prior to the tournament.

Will the Real Madrid player revolt in the squad? A personality as large as Sergio Ramos could easily plunge the Spain team into crisis, but despite the likes of Ramos, Isco, Vasquez and Asensio consisting of a strong Real Madrid core in the squad, I can;t envisage a possibility where they use their domestic squad as a bargaining chip this close to the world cup. Roy Keane in 2002 or France in 2010, this is not.

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