World Cup

FIFA World Cup: Spain Sack Julen Lopetegui Days Before First Match

The new coach of the Spanish national football team, Fernando Hierro, attends a training session at Krasnodar Academy on June 13, 2018, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. - Spain today named the federation sporting director Fernando Hierro as its World Cup coach to replace Julen Lopetegui, who was sensationally sacked after his appointment as Real Madrid manager. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP) (Photo credit should read PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)
FIFA World Cup: Spain Sack Julen Lopetegui Days Before First Match

It’s never good to have a conflict of interest and negotiate with any other football club or national team behind someone else’s back. Mastering ethics is a key element of a noble national team, and Spain is one of those noble national teams. Julen Lopetegui was named the new manager of Real Madrid, replacing Zinedine Zidane. However, news of this came on horrible timing, hours before Spain were set to begin their FIFA World Cup run.

As a result, Lopetegui was sacked and replaced by director of football Fernando Hierro. The sack is not expected to affect Spain’s chances of making the knockout rounds of the tournament but team chemistry has now taken a hit at the hands of the defending world champions of club football, and La Roja run the risk of being exposed, especially by Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in their group. Real Madrid and Spain captain Sergio Ramos appealed for a reconsideration. Naturally and unsurprisingly, those appeals came unanswered.

“There are decisions that we are obliged to take based on an understanding of how you should behave and on ethics,” said Luis Rubiales, the head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation. “The national team belongs to everyone and we have to send a clear message to all employees at the federation that there is a way of behaving, that there are ethics. Julen has worked phenomenally well; I have nothing at all to complain about there. But the way that this has happened obliged me to take this decision. This is a very hard day and now we have decisions to make just two days before the World Cup starts.”

“We’ve come to fight for the World Cup,” Hierro added. “The team is excited. We have a great opportunity and that should be the focus. The message from the team was fantastic. If I were not convinced of our aspirations, I would not be here. The key will be to change as little as possible.”

Speaking of Portugal and Cristiano, the Selecao are indeed Spain’s first opponent in Sochi. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. PT on June 15, 2018. La Roja then have two straightforward ties with Iran (June 20, 11 a.m. PT) and Morocco (June 25, 11 a.m. PT), the latter of whom their 2026 bid lost out to the United bid of North America. However, with Lopetegui’s sacking, no result is certain, and if it doesn’t end well for Spain, no one should be surprised that Real Madrid was behind this slow-motion car crash in Russia…or is that FC Barcelona?

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World Cup

Jo-Ryan Salazar is a writer for The Stoppage Time, a soccer blog powered by Azteca Soccer. A supporter of the Los Angeles Galaxy since 1996 and a committed supporter since 2002, Jo-Ryan also follows Chelsea FC, Melbourne Victory, FC Tokyo and Paris Saint-Germain. Apart from soccer, Jo-Ryan is an administrative assistant for a local nonprofit in Long Beach, California and also does photography, photo-editing and fictional writing.

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