KRASNODAR, Russia - New Spain coach Fernando Hierro plans to carry on Julen Lopetegui’s good work as he prepares to lead his country into their World Cup opener against Portugal on Friday.
Lopetegui, unbeaten in 20 games as coach, winning 14 and drawing six, was fired after being named as Real Madrid coach on Tuesday. “The key is to change as little as possible,” Hierro told a news conference on Wednesday.
“You can’t change two days of work in two days and a large part of the technical team is staying here with us too. We’ve watched the videos for the next game and we need to use our brains, be coherent and, anyway, between now and Portugal there’s not much room for change. I’ve been at all the training sessions, in the day-to-day we’ve been present and I can’t change anything in these two days.”
Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales sacked Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament, citing his conduct in agreeing to become the next Real coach without informing his current employers. Hierro, a former Real Madrid captain, refused to criticise his old club for their conduct, and admitted the chance to coach his country was an opportunity too good to turn down.
“It’s a nice challenge. I know the circumstances and Julen’s work has been fantastic and I wish him all the best," he said. "It was a decision I had to take quickly – it was a case of taking it or walking away, but I couldn’t say no. I’d have never forgiven myself.”
The 50-year-old’s only previous coaching experience came at second division Oviedo, but he believes the players are ready to put the change behind them and focus on winning a second World Cup starting against European champions Portugal in Sochi.
“They’re great professionals who are mature and responsible. If I wasn’t sure that we couldn’t have a great tournament, I wouldn’t be here,” Hierro said. “They are up for the challenge, like all Spaniards are. We need to get back on track and stay mature in this moment.
“The side will stay the same as it has done up until now, it’s up to us to move on and put this behind us and think about what we are representing. Nobody can take the dream away from us."