Spain sack national coach Julen Lopetegui before start of World Cup

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Julen Lopetegui has been removed as Spain manager a day after it emerged that he had agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the World Cup. As Spain, one of the favourites to win the competition, takes on Portugal in a Group B match on Friday, the timing of the decision to fire its coach is shocking.

Spanish Football Association president, Luis Rubiales, revealed the decision soon after Lopetegui was announced as new coach of Champions League winners Real Madrid.

"We have to made a decision to fire the national coach", said Rubiales, who was supposed to be at Fifa's Congress in Moscow yesterday. "We wish him the greatest of luck". A well-decorated player for both Spain's national team and Real Madrid - he appeared in four World Cups, two European Championships and won three Champions League titles - Hierro was the national team's sporting director in the run-up to the World Cup.

"My message is: "We have a magnificent team and hopefully we can go to win the World Cup" but I cannot say any more than that".

The development came a day after it emerged he would be replacing Zinedine Zidane as Real Madrid manager in time for next season. "Madrid put its interests first, as did Lopetegui, and (Spanish federation president Luis) Rubiales was left in a very tough spot".

"You can't change two days of work in two days and a large part of the technical team is staying here with us too".

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"We had to react, I know that whatever I do I will be criticized, I accept that".

Rubiales does not fear a backlash from players and believes they are still committed to the World Cup.

Speaking just three weeks ago after signing his new Spain contract, the former Porto boss said: "I'm grateful for the confidence placed in me and in my staff". Julen has worked in a great way with the team, but we can not accept how he has acted in this case. Spain's Under-21 coach Albert Celades was put forward as one possible candidate with some more far-fetched suggestions claiming Zidane would make the ideal candidate.

Lopetegui signed a deal with Spain until 2020 on May 22 but Real Madrid have swooped for his services and he has agreed to join the Spanish giants after the Russian Federation tournament.

Spain's World Cup hopes may have been dashed today as their head-coach Julen Lopetegui, has been sacked with immediate effect.

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