Spain in disarray as Julen Lopetegui is sacked and replaced by Fernando Hierro just two days before World Cup opener against Portugal

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The World Cup had its first shock before a ball was even kicked, when Spain boss Julen Lopetegui was axed two days before the side's opener against Portugal. (AFP)
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Fernando Hierro, in his pomp at Real Madrid, is the new manager of Spain. (Getty Images)
Updated 13 June 2018
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Spain in disarray as Julen Lopetegui is sacked and replaced by Fernando Hierro just two days before World Cup opener against Portugal

  • Shock in Russia as Spain axe Lopetegui after move to Real Madrid was announced.
  • Set to face Group B rivals Portugal on Friday as Fernando Hierro takes over.

LONDON: Spanish Football Federation President Luis Rubiales said he had no choice but to sack Julen Lopetegui, replacing him with Fernando Hierro, after he agreed to join Real Madrid without informing the Federation.
The decision throws the team, one of the favorites to lift the trophy on July 15, into disarray just two days before their World Cup opener against arch-rivals Portugal.
To say this is not ideal preparation for both that match and the rest of the tournament is an understatement, but Rubiales insisted the federation was “forced” to take action.
”It’s the Spanish team. You cannot do things this way,” Rubiales said.
Rubiales said the situation was “very complicated” but believes the coaching staff will “do everything in their power” to help Spain succeed in Russia.
“I admire Julen a lot, I respect him a lot, I think he’s a top trainer and that makes it more difficult to make the decision,” said Rubiales.
“I don’t feel betrayed. Lopetegui, while he’s been with us, has done impeccable work.
“I know it’s a very difficult situation. I know there’s going to be criticism whatever I do.
“I’m sure this will, in time, make us stronger.”

The 50-year-old Hierro’s only real coaching experience came when he was in charge of second division Spanish outfit Oviedo for one season.


Petra Kvitova rolls back the years as Rafael Nadal makes statement of intent

Updated 2 min 11 sec ago
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Petra Kvitova rolls back the years as Rafael Nadal makes statement of intent

LONDON: We are now at the business end of the year’s first Grand Slam. Here is how the draw is shaping up in Melbourne.

PETRA KVITOVA

It has understandably been an emotional couple of weeks for the two-time Wimbledon champion as, thanks to a 6-1, 6-4 win over Ashleigh Barty, she made her way to a first Grand Slam semifinal since being victim of a knife attack.
She beat home hope Barty in an impressive display indicating the Czech was close to being back to her best.
The sixth seed suffered a serious hand injury when attacked in her home in December 2016, and said: “It wasn’t easy to see myself in a semifinal after everything.
“I’m calling it my second career. So it’s the first semifinal of the second career.”
Kvitova overpowered the smaller Barty in a 27-minute first set.
The 22-year-old Aussie provided resistance in the second, Kvitova saving two break points before taking the last three games.
She will play unseeded Danielle Collins in the last four tomorrow after the American beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 to reach her first major semifinal.

RAFAEL NADAL

The Spaniard continued his relentless march to what he hopes is an 18th Grand Slam title with another impressive, dominating performance in Melbourne.
The Spaniard defeated unseeded American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in another ruthless display from a man who has not dropped a set so far.
Tiafoe had announced himself by beating fifth seed Kevin Anderson, but was no match for a player at the peak of his powers as he attempts to become only the third man to win all four Slams twice and the first to do so in the Open era.
“I had some trouble at this event all my career, so I’m very happy with the way I played tonight,” said the Spaniard, who faces another young gun Tsitsipas in the semifinals.
“I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am,” Nadal admitted.

STEFANOS TSITSIPAS

The conqueror of Roger Federer proved that shock was no flash in the pan as the Greek star became the youngest man to reach the last-four in Melbourne since Andy Roddick in 2003.
The 20-year-old also became the first player from Greece — man or woman — to get so far at Grand Slam having beaten Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.
“I’m just living the dream, living what I’ve been working hard for,” said the 14th seed, who lives in Cyprus but trains at the academy of Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou in France.
“I feel a bit emotional but not too much — I know I really worked hard to get here, playing in semis of a Grand Slam.”
Do not be surprised if he pulls another shock and sends Nadal the way of Federer.