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02nd Jul 2018

Fernando Hierro insists he has no regrets about taking Spain job after defeat to Russia

He stepped in at the last minute

Reuben Pinder

Spain were knocked out by Russia on penalties on Sunday afternoon

Just when you think this World Cup can’t get any more crazy, Spain go and lose to Russia on penalties in the round of 16. Another one of the big boys gone, more pressure on England to take advantage of this ‘easy’ route to the final.

Spain had plenty of the ball, but failed to make it count as their midfield moved the ball from side to side, unable to penetrate Russia’s five man defence.

Spain boss Fernando Hierro was very much a last minute panic appointment, as he stepped in two days before the tournament started after Julen Lopetegui was abruptly sacked in the aftermath of the surprise announcement that he would take over at Real Madrid after the World Cup.

Once the Spanish FA had sacked Lopetegui out of principle, they were left with few options but to promote from within and hand the keys to Fernando Hierro, previously Sporting Director of the Spanish FA.

Hierro took Spain through the group, albeit with more hiccups along the way than they will have anticipated. Draws against Portugal and Morocco made for a nervy end to the group stage for the 2010 winners, but once they were over that obstacle, they were confident of beating Russia.

And they almost did. An own goal from Ignashevich in the first half gave Spain a one goal cushion, at which point they seemed to take their foot off the gas. A penalty conceded by Gerard Piqué allowed the hosts back into the game and Russia were able to see it out until the lottery of penalties.

Despite Spain’s surprisingly early exit from the tournament, Hierro has insisted he has no regrets about taking over.

“Like all Spaniards, we had high hopes and dreams and we are sad that we couldn’t do it for the millions of people who were following the game back home,” he said.

“This was just a question of football, of winning and losing. I can safely say that we can all look each other in the eye. The players have been extraordinary for their effort, their professionalism, their solidarity.

 “There is a lot of pain in the delegation, the players, the coaching staff, the workers. We had great hopes for this World Cup and it wasn’t to be. But I have no complaints against anybody.

“I’m not an opportunist,” Hierro added.

“The situation was what it was, there is no sense in looking back. I put my head on the line to be coach two days before the Portugal match. I thought I had to do it and I accept the consequences.”