Portugal warned Spain’s managerial turmoil could inspire them in opening World Cup encounter

Joao Moutinho has warned his Portugal team-mates to be ready for a backlash in Sochi on Friday night after claiming the chaos that has engulfed Spain’s preparations for their opening World Cup game could inspire rather than inhibit them.

Spain have been rocked by the sacking of their coach, Julen Lopetegui, only 48 hours before they face Portugal at the Fisht Stadium.

Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Football Federation, opted to dismiss Lopetegui as a matter of principle after discovering only five minutes before a public announcement on Tuesday that the coach had been appointed as Real Madrid’s next manager.

Fernando Hierro, the Spanish Football Federation’s director of football, has been placed in temporary charge in Russia but Moutinho has claimed the extraordinary turn of events may only harden Spain’s desire to put on a show against the reigning European champions.

“As a negative effect, no, I don’t think so,” Moutinho said when asked how he thought Spain would be affected. “As a positive? Maybe. I think Spain will have prepared in the best possible way for a few weeks. This change will not alter anything in the way they play.

“They’re going to stick to what they’ve been doing during the qualifiers and preparatory matches. We expect, a strong team, very united who will create challenges, but we have a quality team too and aim for victory.

“This [Lopetegui’s sacking] will not influence one side or the other. We’re focused, united, not concerned with anything else. We’re not looking at the other teams. We’re looking at our team. We know the responsibility we’re facing and we’re ready.”

Fernando Santos, the Portugal coach, scoffed at the notion that Spain could be knocked out of their strides by the developments.

“It’s Spain and Portugal. Spain have played the same way for 10 years. I don’t think there will be any surprises,” Santos said.

“This is the opening game for Portugal and Spain, great teams with great players. We have Fernando Hierro and I’m not going to say good luck but I hope they have a great tournament. All the rest, it’s not going to count for the game. Spain are trying to win and believe they can win and they face an opponent who thinks they can do it and win the game.”

Santos was convinced fans will witness a classic showdown. “It’s a classic, two countries with a lot in common: their borders for one,” he said. “These are two neighbours, it is a world classic, two teams with the goal to win the game and believe in what they can do.

“Spain is a fantastic opponent, highly qualified and therefore it’s a game consolidated through the years. We’ve tried to work on the best capacities of our team taking Spain into account. There’s no perfect team. We have prepared physically and mentally. The team is full of hope, not presumptuous. We respect a great team like Spain. We can face any opponent with the ambition to win the game.”

Portugal have not won their opening game of a tournament since 2008 but Santos is unfazed. “This question has been asked often. History is history and the present is now,” he said. “We have a team with quality and we want to kill that story of not being able to win the first game.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-cup/2018/06/14/portugal-warned-spains-managerial-turmoil-could-inspire-opening/

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