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Hastily hired Spain coach leaves job

The Associated Press

Spain coach Fernando Hierro gestures during the round-of-16 match against Russia in Moscow on July 1.

The Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Fernando Hierro is out as coach of Spain’s national team after less than a month in charge and a disappointing four-game run at the World Cup.

The Spanish federation said Sunday that it wanted “to thank Fernando Hierro for his commitment and for assuming the responsibility of being in charge of the national team during some extraordinary situations.”

Hierro was promoted from sporting director to the top job two days before Spain opened the tournament against Portugal.

New federation president Luis Rubiales was incensed that previous coach Julen Lopetegui had agreed to take charge at Real Madrid after the World Cup without giving the federation sufficient notice. Lopetegui was summarily fired on June 13 despite a 20-game unbeaten streak that had made Spain one of the favorites coming into the tournament.

Spain drew with Portugal and Morocco and beat Iran 1-0 to win its group, then lost to Russia on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the round of 16, a match in which the Spanish were criticized for completing more than 1,000 passes without producing enough scoring chances.

The federation’s statement didn’t indicate whether Hierro left voluntarily, but said he had declined to return to his previous role as sporting director. It called him “an extraordinary sportsman” and said the national team “would always be his home.”

Hierro, 50, is a former national team player and Real Madrid captain. He served as sporting director when Spain won the 2008 European Championship and the 2010 World Cup, what the federation called “the national team’s greatest period.” But he had never held a major coaching job.

“I couldn’t have said ‘no,’ I wouldn’t forgive myself,” Hierro said at the news conference introducing him as coach, two days before the match against European champion Portugal. “We still have a great opportunity in front of us. We have to remain positive and move forward.”

Later in the tournament, Hierro suggested he had stayed in contact with Lopetegui but said they didn’t discuss strategy.

“Julen has his job now, and I’ve got mine,” Hierro said after Spain won the group by a narrow margin. “I’ve got my hands full.”

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