KRASNODAR, Russia (Reuters) - Spain’s players are mature enough to overcome the fall-out from the sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup, former Spanish international Carlos Marchena said on Sunday.
The 2010 world champions emerged from a chaotic week in which Lopetegui was fired for negotiating with Real Madrid behind the national federation’s back by producing a defiant display in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Portugal on Friday.
With former Real Madrid defender Fernando Hierro now in charge of the team, Spain’s next game is against Group B leaders Iran on Wednesday.
“This is a mature dressing-room, a dressing-room that knows what is in their hands, a dressing-room that knows how important the World Cup is,” former Spain international Marchena told Reuters in an interview from the team’s base in Krasnodar.
“This is a group that knows that they have a country full of hope and excitement behind them back home, and they are aware of their responsibility.”
A former defender for clubs including Sevilla, Valencia and Deportivo La Coruna, Marchena was part of the Spain team that snapped 42 years of disappointment by winning the 2008 European Championship. They lifted the World Cup for the first time in 2010.
Now working as an assistant director of football at Sevilla, Marchena was brought to Russia to help Hierro during the tournament and will return to the La Liga club when it finishes.
Marchena said now was not the time to argue over whether Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales was right to remove Lopetegui, and he backed the squad, containing serial winners like Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta, to do well in Russia.
“There’ll be time to talk but we cannot allow ourselves to get caught up in something which has already happened, instead we need to think about the future and that means trying to prepare as well as we can for our next game so we can stay in this tournament,” Marchena added.
“The players have talked among themselves, they know how important this moment is and that they worked so hard to get here. Each player knows what they have to do to not slip up and build something and try to make everyone back home happy.”
Reporting by Silvo Castellanos in Krasnodar, writing by Richard Martin in Rostov-on-Don, editing by Ed Osmond