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Lopetegui, Casemiro, Marcelo react to Super Cup loss

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Real Madrid fell apart in extra time of the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday, losing 4-2 at the hands of cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid.

And new manager Julen Lopetegui says it was not down to desire, even considering how many trophies Real has lifted in recent seasons.

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“These players have won a lot of titles but I do not think that their hunger for titles was missing tonight,” he said. “Last year in La Liga things did not go right for them. We want to get the best out of the team and start picking ourselves up after losing this title. We were all excited for this trophy.”

Losing his first serious match doesn’t bode well for Lopetegui, though his club sold Cristiano Ronaldo, didn’t start Luka Modric, and still came close on Wednesday.

Marcelo didn’t want to talk about transfers.

‘”We need to change our mindset because we have a whole season ahead of us,” he said. “I don’t make the signings. The squad looks good to me. We are united as a group. We played a good game until extra time.”

Casemiro has his coach’s back.

“Any team is bound to miss Ronaldo,” he said. “He is a great player, but he left and we cannot talk about him now, the same with Zidane. We have to talk about the coach, Lopetegui, he is doing a great job. We did good things and we must improve other aspects. The players here are trying to do our best to win titles for Real Madrid.”

Spain’s Hierro leaves federation after World Cup exit

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Fernando Hierro’s time running the Spanish national team is limited to the World Cup, and he will not be returning to his former position as sporting director.

Hierro stepped into the role on the eve of the tournament, when Spain fired Julen Lopetegui for his decision to accept the Real Madrid position without informing the federation.

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Spain beat Iran but drew Morocco and Portugal in group play, finishing first in Group B before losing to hosts Russia in penalty kicks at the Round of 16.

From the BBC:

A statement said the former Real Madrid player had “declined” to return to his previous role and has opted to “undertake new professional challenges.”

The storyline to follow will be whether the problems and vibes at the federation extend beyond its head-scratching decision to react viciously to Lopetegui’s move to Real.

Emotional Lopetegui at Real introduction: Spain firing ‘saddest day’

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It’d be fair to assume Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would sympathize with anyone changing managers in a fit of emotion, but the 71-year-old is enraged on behalf of his new coach Julen Lopetegui.

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Madrid introduced Lopetegui on Thursday. The Spanish coach is taking the reins from resigned boss Zinedine Zidane one day after the Spanish national team fired Lopetegui for taking the Real job without informing them.

Yes, the same Spanish team who enters this month’s World Cup as one of the favorites.

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Perez lambasted the Spanish federation, which claimed both Lopetegui and his new club “betrayed” the country, citing Chelsea and Manchester United hiring Antonio Conte and Louis Van Gaal on the eve of major tournaments for their national teams.

And Lopetegui claimed his players reacted well to his telling them he’d leave the national team set-up after the World Cup.

At one point, Lopetegui became emotional in discussing the last 24-48 hours.

From Real Madrid’s web site:

“I believe I’m ready for this adventure and to take the wonderful squad of players we have under my wing. Real Madrid aspires to win everything and I feel part of the family at this club. Yesterday was the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother, but today is the happiest.”

We get it, Julen, and there’s no reason for him to feel shamed. We supposed he could’ve told Real to wait until after the World Cup to speak, but then could miss out on a dream job.

The 51-year-old coached Real Madrid B from 2008-09 before moving onto Spain’s youth set-up, then Porto, then Spain’s senior team.

How much will Spain’s managerial turmoil hurt their World Cup chances?

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Spanish Federation president Luis Rubiales appears to have nuked Spain’s chances at the 2018 World Cup just 24 hours before the opening of the big dance.

Rubiales pulled the power play of all power plays by sacking manager Julen Lopetegui for going behind the federation’s back to negotiate a deal to become Real Madrid’s new boss following the conclusion of the World Cup. After the deal leaked and Los Blancos confirmed the appointment, Rubiales heard the players and Director of Football Fernando Hierro all plead for support of Lopetegui, and then canned him anyways and put the woefully underqualified Hierro in charge.

So how much does this truly affect Spain’s ability to perform at a high level on the biggest soccer stage?

A backroom overhaul at the eve of the World Cup is nothing to scoff at. There can be no greater upheaval to a squad’s preparation than to have its leader undercut on the doorstep. However, the Spanish squad is full of tactically adept veterans such as Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, and many more. It’s unlikely that their tactical makeup will change much – if at all – and with so little time to make any form of sweeping tactical changes, there will likely be close to no major shuffles to the deck.

There was plenty of talk about how Lopetegui was less a tactical puppeteer and more of a mental facilitator during his time in charge of Spain. In fact, in his only club position prior to taking the national team job, he failed in monumental fashion at Porto, unable to finish out his second season with the team in third in the Primera Liga and booted following a massive 6-1 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich. Understanding Lopetegui’s shaky managerial past is critical in deducing that his success with the national team could be as much or more down to his ability to balance his squad’s egos and mental states than a tactical prowess. Thus, the squad may be able to continue on the field without Lopetegui’s guidance and minimize the damage suffered by his sudden departure.

Despite Lopetegui’s success after minimal club experience, looking past Hierro’s monumentally thin managerial resume is still very challenging. He has almost no experience leading a squad, and while he has spent the last year or so as Director of Football under Lopetegui, that’s not nearly enough to instill massive confidence in his ability to lead the national team tactically and emotionally. His only job saw Real Oviedo miss out on the Segunda B divison promotion playoffs on the final match of the season in 2017, leaving the club after just the one season.

So will Lopetegui’s sudden upheaval throw the Spain squad into irreperable chaos, or will Hierro be able to right the ship? Will the squad leadership be enough to see it through the maelstrom, or will the ship be swallowed beneath the stormy waters? It’s unlikely the managerial change will have any major impact on their Group B finish, but with a potential quarterfinal matchup against Argentina looming on the horizon, Spain could be headed for a second disappointing finish in a major tournament in the last two years, a result that fans are unlikely to take in stride.

Spain fire Lopetegui in huge shock on eve of World Cup

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The story of the 2018 World Cup may have just occurred.

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Spain have fired their head coach Julen Lopetegui a day after it was announced he would become the new manager of Real Madrid following the World Cup.

On the eve of the tournament and just over 48 hours before their opening game of Group B play against rivals Portugal on Friday, the Spanish national team are in chaos.

Fernando Hierro has been rushed in as the new head coach but the Real Madrid and Spanish national team legend will have his work cut out.

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Speaking at a hastily arranged press conference in Krasnodar, Russia, the president of the Spanish Football Association, Luis Rubiales, detailed the decision to fire Lopetegui, 51.

“It’s the Spanish team. You can’t do things this way,” Rubiales said. “I don’t feel betrayed. Lopetegui, while he’s been with us, has done impeccable work. Another COA is how this has been done, without knowledge of the association. I admire Julen very much, I respect him very much. He seems to me a top trainer and that makes it harder to make the decision.”

Rubiales went on to confirm that he found out about Lopetegui agreeing to join Real Madrid, after the World Cup, just five minutes before the official announcement was made on Tuesday.

The announcement of Lopetegui taking over at Real Madrid is also said to have caused serious problems within the Spanish camp. The timing of the announcement was deemed as being too disruptive with players from Real said to have known he would take over from Zinedine Zidane before their national team teammates from other clubs.

Lopetegui took charge of Spain in 2016 and led them to the World Cup and was unbeaten in his 20 games in charge. He was due to coach in his first major tournament as the Spanish coach but now that has all ended.

Ahead of Spain’s opening World Cup game all of the talk is about this crazy situation as Lopetegui’s decision to sign a deal with Real Madrid without previously speaking to the Spanish federation has cost him the chance to lead his country.