Fernando Hierro doesn’t want to know about Spain’s horrible history of playing the hosts of major tournaments as his side prepare to face Russia in the World Cup last 16 in Moscow on Sunday.
“Records are there to be broken,” the coach told a reporter on Saturday who told him that Spain have never beaten a host at the World Cup or European Championship.
“We have everything very clearly in mind,” Hierro said, insisting he was ready for anything Russia could throw at him.
“Why are we looking in the rear view mirror? Why are we looking at the past? It’s all about tomorrow, 5 p.m. Everything else is completely irrelevant.”
Most painfully in recent memory, Spain lost to South Korea on penalties in the 2002 World Cup. They were also beaten by Portugal in Euro 2004 and by England — on penalties — at Euro 96.
Hierro waved away questions about his side’s stuttering performances after he was promoted at the last minute to replace Julen Lopetegui, fired on the eve of the tournament after accepting a job at Real Madrid. Spain won their group after beating Iran 1-0 and drawing with Morocco and Portugal.
“Football is made of mistakes and the team that makes fewer mistakes probably wins,” he said. “We need to avoid mistakes.”
Midfielder David Silva also defended Spain’s record in Russia.
“All teams are having a hard time,” he said. “Sometimes teams park the bus in front of goal. It can be hard to shine because of that kind of behaviour.”
Against Russia, with both sides needing to score, Silva believes that Spain will get chances.
“If we play very fast up front we’ll have a lot of options and we’ll get space and we’ll hurt them,” he said.
Hierro dismissed fears of playing in front of a vocal home crowd.
“My lads are used too playing in big stadiums, where there’s a lot of pressure, where you’re away from home,” he said. “Everything that will be achieved will be on the pitch.”
Cherchesov eyes history in hope Russia beat Spain
The last time Stanislav Cherchesov walked out at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium to face Fernando Hierro’s side, the Spaniards were heavy favourites but the Russians reached the next round.
Now the Russia coach hopes the World Cup hosts can repeat those exploits from 1991, when the Spartak Moscow team he played in goal for beat Real Madrid featuring Hierro in a European Cup quarter-final. Though that first leg ended goalless, Spartak ran out 3-1 winners in the return in Spain.
“That time, like now, the Spanish were the favourites,” Cherchesov told reporters ahead of Sunday’s second-round match when reminded of that European game 27 years on. “But as we say in Russian, anyone can be a god if he tries.
“I remember Fernando very well. He was an outstanding player and now he’s an outstanding coach,” Cherchesov said of Hierro, who stepped up in Russia to run the former champions’ campaign after the shock sacking of Julien Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament follow his decision to join Real Madrid.
“We prepared the game well and we were able to do what no one expected,” the Russia coach said of his Spartak exploits.
“Tomorrow we have a chance to do something like that again.”
Cherchesov, whose team have defied many Russians’ expectations by qualifying for the last 16, dismissed talk of extra pressure on his players to deliver a return for the Kremlin on its investment in hosting the global tournament.
“This is a knockout contest. It’s a life-and-death match. Only one team will be going through,” he said.
But, no, it’s not pressure. It’s responsibility. Spain feel it. Russia feel it. If you lose, you’re out.”
He said his players’ confidence was not dented by losing the final group game 3-0 to Uruguay after two high-scoring wins.
Midfielder Denis Cheryshev, who has lived most of his life in Spain and plays there for Villarreal, said he would be joining his Russian team mates in giving “200 percent” effort in what he hoped would be a “fiesta” of football.
“We will have a hard time,” he said. “They are excellent. But we have our assets and can also play. They are one of the best teams in the world but I think we can beat anyone.”
The winners in Moscow will go through to a quarter-final in Sochi against Croatia or Denmark.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines