Wednesday 22 May 2019

Lay blame for exit at me, says Hierro

Spain caretaker coach Fernando Hierro. Photo: Reuters
Spain caretaker coach Fernando Hierro. Photo: Reuters

Spain caretaker coach Fernando Hierro has refused to blame the squad's chaotic World Cup build-up for their elimination at the last 16 stage. Hierro took over just three days before the tournament after Julen Lopetegui was sacked for accepting a job offer from Real Madrid.

But the former Bolton Wanderers midfielder said he accepted full responsibility for Spain's exit on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Russia in Moscow, and admitted he was still in the dark on his future.

"That does not worry me," he said. "I don't think it's important right now. We're talking about a generation of extraordinary players and we haven't been performing at the level we expected. I accept responsibility. I'm the head coach. I was put in this position, and if anyone needs to shoulder this responsibility, it's me.

"I'm not going to start laying blame at the feet of other people. I took on this role out of a sense of responsibility, because I felt it was necessary, and I accepted it with all its consequences. We are leaving this World Cup without losing a single match, and that is a fact. A penalty shoot-out is basically a lottery, and we weren't lucky. We're all suffering."

Hierro also faced questions on Spain's inability to open up a weak Russia side, with their first genuine shot on target - their only goal was an own goal by Sergei Ignashevich - coming after 45 minutes.

He argued that Spain had enjoyed more ball possession and pointed out the difficulties of breaking down a team laid out in a defensive 5-4-1 system in which all 11 men were regularly kept behind the ball.

"If you analyse every minute of the match, we had people attacking, we had attackers on the wings, in the middle," Hierro said. "We had to circulate the ball very quickly. We tried to bet on them getting tired, had five or six clear opportunities to score, and conceded very few, apart from the penalty. We did everything we could to try to win the match."

Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov admitted that his defensive tactics had been borne out of necessity. "Let us say this openly," he said. "They are better than us in many ways. So I didn't believe we should risk going forward.

"Had we chosen a different tactic, we would not have fared as well.

"This was a painful decision, we don't like this kind of structure, but this is what we had to do. Now I'm thinking only about the next game."

Irish Independent

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