Portugal(N) vs Spain - Sergio Ramos backs Fernando Hierro to pull Spain squad together

Posted Friday, June 15, 2018 by PA

Portugal(N) vs Spain - Sergio Ramos backs Fernando Hierro to pull Spain squad together

Captain Sergio Ramos hopes Spain can quickly overcome coach Julen Lopetegui’s shock sacking to make a winning start to the World Cup.

The Spanish camp was rocked on Wednesday, just two days before their tournament opener against Portugal in Sochi, as Lopetegui was dismissed in response to his surprise appointment by Real Madrid.

Real had announced the previous day Lopetegui would take over as their head coach after the World Cup.

Former Spain midfielder Fernando Hierro has stepped in at short notice and Ramos is confident he can pull the squad together.

“We need to turn the page and there’s nobody better for filling the void than Hierro,” Ramos told reporters at a press conference. “I hope we can have a national team like we had before.”

Spain remain one of the favourites to win the tournament despite the disruption and Hierro himself is confident the team can still shine.

Hierro said: “It is true that there is very little time to prepare, but the moment is here and we are clear about what we want to achieve. This will not change, and we will see the same old Spain, the one that wants to take the initiative.”

The Lopetegui affair has overshadowed the build-up to what had been one of the most eagerly-anticipated games of the group stage.

The match at the Fisht Stadium sees Spain, winners of the 2010 World Cup and two European Championships in the past decade, face the Euro 2016 winners.

One of the contest’s key battles will see defender Ramos come up against Real team-mate and five-time world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ramos, 32, said: “I prefer having him on my side than against. He is a great player and a constant danger.”

Portugal’s preparations have gone relatively unnoticed but their coach Fernando Santos is taking nothing for granted. Santos does not think the Lopetegui development will have significantly weakened Spain.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Santos said: “It does not seem to me that there is a disadvantage on the part of Spain. I do not expect any surprises.

“There will be two on-field teams that will want to win the game. The most important thing is the clash between the two teams. It has everything to be a great game.

“We are prepared for a tricky game but we are confident that we are capable.”

Spain triumphed the last time the sides met in the World Cup, in South Africa eight years ago. The Spaniards also have the better head-to-head record between the countries, having won 16 of their 35 meetings, compared to Portugal’s six.

Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho said: “We expect an extremely strong and united team that will create great difficulties, but we will want to play our game and hope to emerge victorious.

“We have a strong, united and focused group that knows what its responsibilities are.”

The match is in Group B, which also includes Morocco and Iran.



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