'Spain's unbeaten run a fruit of Julen's hard work' - Hierro after last-16 exit

Spain, which is undefeated in its last 24 matches, crashed out of the World Cup on the lottery of penalty shootouts.

Fernando Hierro vs Russia

Fernando Hierro after Spain's penalty shootout defeat to Russia.   -  Getty Images

Spain's interim coach Fernando Hierro insists it isn't the the end of the road for the team after it's shock exit in the Round-of-16 stage of the World Cup to Russia on Sunday. 

"We feel the way how all Spaniards are feeling. We empathise with all the fans here and back home," said Hierro.

Match Report

He added, "It was a game of 120 minutes and then there was a shootout and we lost, that's football. I had told my players to enjoy the World Cup and al the players can look up with their heads held high as they have given their best."

Spain took an early lead in the game before being punished by a Artyom Dzyuba penalty before the break. The host managed to hold out for a 1-1 draw including the extra-time before progressing on penalty shootouts. "We scored first, but then there was a phase when second balls and direct football helped them to reach us. We had more ball possession, we had 18 or 19 shots on goal, but this is football. We understand in times like this we have to be effective, we had the opportunities but we end up with a penalty shootout which is a lottery," said the interim boss.

Hierro took the big call of dropping experienced midfielder Andres Iniesta out of the starting lineup. "I left Iniesta out because I knew what this match required. I am grateful to Andres, he is one of the greatest players in the history and I explained him. This could be a long match and we had analysed the opponent thoroughly and we thought we will need something different around the 75th minute. He was outstanding on the pitch and he played like it was his first international after he came in," he explained.

La Roja will exit the tournament despite remaining undefeated in four matches. "We are leaving this World Cup without losing a match. After the round-of-16, you either progress or don't and you don't get a second chance, that's the character of a Cup."

On Russia's tactics, Hierro said, "It is difficult to attack a team which has 11 players defending, which is organised and physical."

Iniesta announces retirement after Spain's ouster

On his own future with the national team, he said, "I don't think it's important to figure whether I will continue or not. We have to analyse this complex emotion where we have failed to live up to our expectations. This is the fruit of Julen's work and it's sad that we are leaving without losing a game in 22 or 23 games. It's a work of two years."

Spain's campaign got off to a disastrous start after the Spanish Federation unceremoniously sacked Julen Lopetegui before a ball was even kicked at the World Cup. "We can't start finger pointing, we can't blame the federation. The situation was what it was and we have to call a spade a spade. I was their coach and I took on this role as a sense of responsibility and I am also responsible for the consequences."

He added, "I am leaving this event resting easy as we all tried to give our best."

On his in-game changes and tactics, he said, "We bet on them to get tired and that happened and it's our style as we try to reach their penalty area as quickly as possible. With 20 minutes, we put another striker on the field and my experience is you can't get goals with more strikers against a team defending deep."

'I am saving my emotion for later'

Spain dominated the international arena between 2008 and 2012 during which it won a World Cup between two EURO championship triumphs.

"Every World Cup has certain trends and in 2010 we had players who played at a level and style which nobody had ever tried. We won three tournaments, but we are in 2018 and many things have changed, teams are playing with five in the back with quick transitions with direct balls. We have our identity and the players we have and the players that are coming up, we will continue to do the same," Hierro concluded.

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.

  Dugout videos