Spain manager Fernando Hierro was full of praises for his players in spite of their penalty shoot-out loss to hosts Russia in their second round match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia game decided in Moscow on Sunday.
Hierro took charge of the La Roja just two days to their opening group game against Portugal but the former national team captain could do nothing to prevent the 2010 champions from going down on a sunny day in the Russian capital.
Speaking at the post-match conference, Hierro spoke glowingly about his players and insisted he has nothing against anyone of them.
“It’s been absolutely extra-ordinary to work with this group,” began the Real Madrid legend.
“I’m not holding anything against anybody or against any of my players. The fifteen players that played gave it their all, with our pluses or minuses. I honestly have nothing to hold against any of my players.
“They trained like I’d never seen them train before, they worked as a group like I’ve never seen before but in the end, it’s football and football is sometimes like this,” he added.
39-year old defender Sergey Iganshevich put through his own goal earlier on to give Spain the lead but forward Artem Dzyuba restored parity for the hosts before half time. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev pulled off a number of saves to deny the Spaniards before then saving Koke and Iago Aspas’ spot kicks, an effort which earned him the Man of the Match award.
Defeat was hard to swallow for Fernando Hierro who captained Spain to the 2002 World Cup where they also lost on penalties to co-hosts South Korea at the quarter final stage.
“It is hard to summarise this match. We knew it was going to be a difficult match, we scored first, we knew they were good in set-pieces and had answers through that but that’s part of football.
“I’ve been in football for a long time now and I know that in times like these, we need to be effective and I think that we had opportunities to win the match but it ended in penalty shootout which is basically a lottery and we were not lucky.
“I empathize with the fans. The fans are suffering from the loss, so also the players, the technical staff because we came to this World Cup with a lot of ambitions but unfortunately, we will not get them,” said Hierro.
Spain’s conquerors Russia will now face Croatia in Kazan in the second quarter final game billed for the Kazan Arena on Friday, July 6.
Fisayo Dairo reporting from Moscow