You can almost count the hours on your fingers and toes before arch-rivals Spain and Portugal commence the war of Iberia in Russia in a game that is likely to decide who will top World Cup group B.
With Iran and Morocco, the other two sides contesting the group, all and sundry firmly expect both the Portuguese and Spaniards to make it through to the knockout stages with the only thing to be decided is in which order.
According to numerous sportsbooks such as https://www.apuestasdeportivas24.org/ Spain were entering the World Cup in a strong position.
That was until Spain shook the world with the news that they had sacked head coach Julen Lopetegui just hours before the big kick-off.
After it emerged that Lopetegui was to take over as Real Madrid boss after the World Cup, it has been confirmed that the Spanish FA were furious that they were only informed five minutes before Real made the announcement and made the decisive move to axe the man who has never lost a match as the senior team head coach.
It was quite a bold move by the Spanish FA President Luis Rubiales but one he felt he had to make despite a reported two-hour standoff from the players who were eager for Lopetegui to stay.
Julen Lopetegui’s club record has hardly set the world alight but he has climbed the international ladder having coached the youth sides all the way up from Under 19 to the senior side and his sacking is a drama Spain could do without.
Especially as first up is their neighbours Portugal in a crucial contest on Friday.
Do Spain Still Have a Chance?
Former Real Madrid assistant Fernando Hierro is the man who has been thrown in at the deep end and has been a declared a ‘safe pair of hands’ by FA president Luis Rubiales.
That may be so, but then it was clear the players wanted Lopetegui to stay on even if he was due to move to Real Madrid in a matter of weeks, but much depends on how much of the handover Julen is allowed to give Hierro as he prepares his squad to face the Portuguese (if any).
Formations and playing style must surely stay the same so the technical details have most likely already been ironed out so now it comes down to the motivation of the players.
As professionals, that should not be a problem, but the reality is something quite different.
There are two scenarios, one being the injustice they feel seeing the man who guided them to the World Cup dismissed just hours before the big kick-off bonds the team like never before, or, the side have scored a massive own goal and Spain could be heading for an early exit.
As drama’s go, Spain have come up with one to rival even the most entertaining soap opera and one that could seriously hamper their chances of a second tilt at the FIFA World Cup.
We will find out on Friday as the War of Iberia is set to send the world into overdrive.