By Joe Easton
The Spanish soccer federation fired national coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup for agreeing to join Real Madrid after the tournament.
The country’s soccer federation learned of Lopetegui’s appointment five minutes before it was announced on Tuesday, its president, Luis Rubiales said at a press conference. Former team captain Fernando Hierro, already in Russia as sporting director, will take over as coach for the tournament, the federation said on its website.
“You cannot do these things two to three days before a World Cup,” Rubiales said. “We had to take this decision.”
Lopetegui agreed to join the Champions League winners this week following the resignation of Zinedine Zidane in May.
Spain, the 2010 winners, are third favorites to win this year’s competition, according to bookmaker SkyBet. Their first game is against Euro 2016 winners Portugal on Friday and they will also play Morocco and Iran during the group stage.
The national team is seeking to rebuild after a disappointing defense of the trophy in 2014, combining a new generation of players with the last of its world champions.
“Maybe I get a call up now!” joked Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who created the winning goal in 2010 but wasn’t included in this year’s squad.
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