SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Spain’s stunning managerial change on the eve of the World Cup will not affect their performance in their opening ‘Iberian derby’ match, Portugal’s coach Fernando Santos said on Thursday.
The Spaniards sensationally fired coach Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday and replaced him the same day with Fernando Hierro, the Spanish football association’s sporting director.
As the Portuguese coach warmed up for Friday’s match between the old rivals in Sochi, Santos had his own answer to the first big question of the World Cup: will the turmoil cause Spain to crumble or come together?
“It is Spain and Portugal,” Santos said. “Spain has played like that for 10 years I don’t think there are going to be any surprises. What is important is the team that plays, and the strategy and no more than that.”
“Spain are fantastic opponents,” he added. “They are highly qualified with a kind of game that has been consolidated over the years and (it) won’t change that radically.”
Santos knows Hierro but stopped short of wishing his friend all the best in their Group B opener.
“Tomorrow is the opening game for two great teams and two great sets of players,” Santos told reporters at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium. “I am not going to say good luck but I hope they have a great tournament.”
“Spain believe they can win and we are also an opponent that think they can win the game.”
Spain and Portugal have been drawn together in Group B along with Iran and Morocco.
Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ian Chadband