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Santos and Portugal not expecting Spanish surprises after Lopetegui exit

14 Июнь 2018 17:42

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos does not believe Julen Lopetegui's sacking will have an impact on Friday's World Cup blockbuster in Sochi as he expects more of the same from Spain.

Spain's World Cup preparations unravelled on Wednesday after Lopetegui was relieved of his duties having agreed to replace Zinedine Zidane at European champions Real Madrid.

Former captain Fernando Hierro will step into the dugout for the Group B showdown at Fisht Stadium, however, Santos and the Euro 2016 champions are not anticipating any surprises from their neighbours.

"It is going to be the opening game between two great teams," Santos said during Thursday's news conference. "We are going to have Fernando Hierro.

"I'm not going to say good luck but I hope they have a great tournament. All the rest is not going to count for the game. Spain will be trying to win and they believe they can."

Pressed further on Lopetegui's departure in front of a packed media contingent, Santos added: "It's Spain and Portugal. Spain has played like that for 10 years. There isn't going to be surprises. Therefore what is important is the team who will play. No more than that."

Midfielder Joao Moutinho was sat alongside Santos and the 31-year-old followed a similar tone when asked about Spain's preparations without Lopetegui.

"Positive [effect on Portugal] maybe? Spain have prepared themselves best possible way," Moutinho said. "They have been preparing for a few weeks. This change won't really alter the way they play. They will stick to what they've been doing throughout qualifying.

"We expect a strong team and very united. We have a very good team, a quality team. We'd like to reach victory which is what we're aiming at."

Santos was also quizzed on superstar captain and five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo amid uncertainty over his future at Madrid.

Ronaldo hinted at a possible departure following Madrid's third successive Champions League triumph, sparking speculation of a possible return to Manchester United or a switch to Paris Saint-Germain.

When asked about Ronaldo and his frame of mind heading into the first game of the showpiece tournament, Santos said: "He is an extraordinary captain. Extraordinary player as you know.

"He is very positive and decisive influence albeit on the pitch or off it. He is an important figure. More important than him or myself is the team. The team is important. He deals with it perfectly."

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