Spain’s World Cup exit not linked to off-field turmoil: Hierro

Moscow, July 2  Spain’s interim head coach Fernando Hierro denied his team has been affected by off-field turbulence following their FIFA World Cup elimination in the pre-quarterfinals on Sunday.

Hosts Russia sent the 2010 champions packing with a 4-3 penalty shootout win after the scores were tied 1-1 at the end of extra time in their Round-of-16 duel, reports Xinhua news agency.

Spain’s World Cup plans were thrown into turmoil two days before their first match when coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked after it was revealed he had accepted a position to join Real Madrid after the tournament. Hierro, who had been Spain’s director of football, was given the coaching job on an interim basis.

“We came here with ambition and we empathize with our people, those that came all the way to Russia,” Hierro said.A

“I don’t think you can talk about the team breaking down or collapsing. There’s a fine line between winning and losing. It’s very difficult to be attacking, attacking, attacking … for 120 minutes. The commitment has been total.”

Asked about his weeks-long tenure with the Spanish national team, Hierro said: “It is, and has been, a pleasure to coach them. I have no reproach whatsoever for this group of players.”

Asked whether he would remain as coach, Hierro said: “It’s not my decision.”

Hierro also paid tribute to midfielder Andres Iniesta, who retired from international football after the match at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

“I give my whole hearted recognition to one of the greatest players of our history,” he said of the 34-year-old who was part of Spain’s World Cup-winning team in 2010, apart from the Euro-winning squads in 2008 and 2012.

“He’s an outstanding professional. The way he played on the pitch when he substituted on was like he was playing in his first cap and I want to thank him whole-heartedly.”