Spanish fans could do worse things today than pick up the phone and call a friend in Ireland. Those of you who can cast your mind back as far as the World Cup in 2002 might remember the almighty furore which erupted when Roy Keane left/was kicked out of the Ireland team on the eve of the finals. Ireland hadn’t experienced a civil war since the 1920’s but that event came close to replicating it, albeit in a non-lethal form. Given the tournament that was in that particular side, many Irish to this day still believe that they might well have won it if only Keane-O had been there.
Will those kind of thoughts be swirling through the minds of Spain’s fans now that they’ve had their own Keanesian moment with the sacking of their boss, Julen Lopetegui, two days before their opening World Cup match against Portugal? Whether they do or not, it’s hardly ideal preparation ahead of a World Cup in which they have a decent shout of winning – or maybe, as a result of this upheaval, a World Cup in which they had a decent shout of winning. Real Madrid, having been shocked by the sudden departure of Zinedine Zidane following their Champions League win, made their move for Lopetegui, the ramifications of which are hardly going to endear them to their fellow country-folk.
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Where Do Spain Go From Here?
The Spanish Football Federation was furious, at any rate. Just consider the levels of rage required to ditch your national coach at this late hour. The President of said Federation insisted that their hand had been forced due to the clandestine nature of the negotiations between Lopetegui and Madrid. By some accounts, Sergio Ramos had petitioned for their coach to continue in his role but the Federation felt that they had no option but to jettison him. In his stead, former international defender and current Director of Football, Fernando Hierro, has taken over.
Look up any good cookbook and the ingredients for a shit-storm are generally the same: a bolt from the blue mixed with some shock turning to anger, a good dollop of shocked and confused actors generously seasoned with an impending deadline and a soupcon of dreams being dashed.
One feels that in tumultuous time like these, the onus will very much turn to the leaders on the field to steer the ship through stormy seas. If they are to rely on one guiding principle, a point of light to pierce this darkness, it might well be to close ranks and ensure that their great unifying figure, Andres Iniesta, is brought as deep into the tournament as possible. They should not look to the sidelines for direction; it is on the pitch and amongst their peers that they must find purpose.
World Cup Winner: Spain at 7/1 with BetVictor