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Spain manager Fernando Hierro quits
SPANISH national team manager Fernando Hierro has resigned just a month into the job and also quit the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), where he was sporting director until two days before the start of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Hierro took over after team trainer Julen Lopetegui was fired by the RFEF once already in Russia and with three days to go before the first match against Portugal, a team captained by the mighty Cristiano Ronaldo.
Lopetegui had signed up as manager for Real Madrid, replacing outgoing 'Zizou' Zidane, but the club boss Florentino Pérez leaked the news ahead of the World Cup – the first the RFEF had heard of it – and its chairman Luis Rubiales was annoyed at being left out of the loop.
He reacted by sacking Lopetegui, a unilateral decision and very badly timed, despite unanimous campaigning from players to let him stay and support them through the World Cup.
Despite his good intentions and formidable challenge ahead, the finger has been pointed at Hierro after Spain was knocked out by Russia a week ago on penalties, making Group B the first with all four teams eliminated.
Hierro had taken over from a highly-experienced trainer and was a novice on the front line, leading to decisions – and indecisions – that proved Spain's undoing.
Diego Costa had repeatedly told him not to put Koke forward during the penalty shoot-out against Russia, to no avail, and Hierro was criticised for 'not making a single revolutionary decision' beyond putting Thiago, Carvajal and Iniesta on the bench in the final match and keeping De Gea, a move that players considered ill-advised.
Players themselves were shaky in their performance, possibly because of being so unsettled by the loss of a trainer and having to adapt to a new one with 48 hours to go – criticism has rained on goalkeeper David de Gea, midfielders Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos and on Thiago, Silva and others, with comments about how they were 'reacting' rather than being proactive.
Spain's only win was a 1-0 against Iran, and the 2010 winners drew against Morocco and Portugal, whose shock exit against Russia was just one other twist in this unusual World Cup that has seen Brazil and Germany off and England into the semi-finals for the first time since 1966.
Many others blame Luis Rubiales for his knee-jerk decision in sacking Lopetegui, and others blame Lopetegui himself for not leaving his signing up with Real Madrid until after the World Cup, as other names in the list of culprits for Spain's poor performance.
The RFEF has accepted Hierro's resignation and thanked him for his service – which includes two periods as sporting director, starting in 2007 and covering the 2008 and 2012 UEFA Euro wins and the 2010 World Cup victory.
Its announcement about his leaving simply said Hierro was 'moving on to seek new challenges' in his career.
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