In a shock move just hours before their World Cup opener on Friday against rivals Portugal, Spain fired manager Julen Lopetegui shortly after he accepted a job coaching European giants Real Madrid.
Fernando Hierro has been named the new manager of Spain, the 50-year-old already working as a director for the national team, the RFEF announced Wednesday morning. There was initial speculation that Albert Celades would take over for the opening match against the Portuguese, but Hierro will be patrolling the sidelines for the country’s run.
Hierro has deep roots in Spanish soccer. As a player, he won three Champions League titles at Real Madrid and represented Spain at the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups.
He will meet with the media later on Wednesday and direct his first training session with the squad before Friday’s opener.
After a disappointing display at the 2014 World Cup in which it did not make it out of the group stage and a quarterfinal loss to France at Euro 2016, the 2010 world champions are viewed as one of the favorites in Russia this summer.
The Red Fury possess a crop of youngsters like Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez that have created a deep squad. So deep, in fact, that big names like Cesc Fabregas Hector Bellerin and Alvaro Morata are not included in the squad featured in Russia.
It should make Hierro’s transition to manager somewhat easier, though Spain is not a country that has changed managers often, lately. Lopetegui, who is replacing Zinedine Zidane at Madrid, took over in 2016 after Vicente del Bosque’s eight-year run as manager came to an end.