Compared to Spain's coaching chaos, the distractions created by Cristiano Ronaldo have become almost meaningless for Portugal.

Spain will play their opening World Cup match against the European champions early tomorrow morning (NZT) with a manager who has been on the job for only a few days.

Fernando Hierro, a former national team player who had been acting as the national team's sports director in Russia, will coach the squad after the Spanish federation's shock decision to fire Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday.

Lopetegui was given the boot after Real Madrid announced he had signed a three-year deal to join the club giant after the World Cup.


"We have to stop thinking about the past and focus on our match against Portugal," Hierro said yesterday. "We don't have time to lament. We have to be mature. We have to change our focus. We have an obligation to do it."

Portugal had been the team dealing with the off-the-field distractions ever since Ronaldo hinted after the Champions League final that he was going to leave Madrid. He said he would reveal his plans when he joined the national team, putting the spotlight on himself instead of Portugal's World Cup preparations, but he was yet to make any announcements.

"We are in a very difficult situation," Spanish federation president Luis Rubiales said.

"It's very complicated. I'm not going to come here and say that this was the best solution."

Everything appeared to be running smoothly for Spain, with Lopetegui leading the team on a 20-match unbeaten streak and turning them into top title contenders again after disappointing eliminations from the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 European Championship.

But Rubiales, the newly elected federation president, didn't like the timing of Madrid's surprise announcement on Wednesday and decided to take the drastic measure of firing the coach. He said that winning was important but not as much as maintaining the federation's values.

"I talked to the players and they have shown their commitment to do everything they can to take the national team as far as possible in this tournament," Rubiales said. "This is already in the past. We are moving forward."

Hierro, a former national team player and Madrid captain, is taking on his first major coaching job. He was Carlo Ancelotti's assistant at Madrid after Zinedine Zidane left the post in 2014, and coached second-division club Real Oviedo two seasons ago.