From Russia With

Sound the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 klaxon. We are off folks, we are off. And clearly, it was decided that Russia vs Saudi Arabia was nowhere near interesting enough to open up such an event so Spain were asked to come up a creative solution. And boy did they, hitting self-combust before a ball is kicked.

Julen Lopetegui, having signed a new contract back in those heady days when Zinedine Zidane looked like he would be Real Madrid manager forever and no other club could dream of taking the Champions League trophy away from him, was sacked yesterday morning. Eventually. Once the president of the Spanish FA, Luis Rubiales, had made it very, very clear it has a matter of principle his ego, that is.

Lopetegui’s crime? To accept the biggest club job available in world football currently. To go back to a club where he has already been a coach. To, in his own mind, bow out as an unbeaten Spain national team head coach with a World Cup tucked under his arm. To leave a hero.

Unfortunately for Julen, the cat slipped out of the bag a couple of days ago. Apparently, the Real Madrid players already knew and had promised to keep quiet about it. Except one of them didn’t and a non-Real Madrid player learned the truth. At this point, Lopetegui decided it would be best to front up and let the world know the truth, so not to disrupt the squad any more than needs be. Julen was being sensible, I feel.

The problem appears to be that Luis Rubiales was completely in the dark about all this and only found out his head coach was planning to leave five minutes before the press release. Nose utterly out of joint, he mad an emergency dash to the Spanish camp where “emergency talks” were held (where Luis basically stormed around saying he was going to sack him there and then and nobody could stop him).

Sergio Ramos, yeah really, attempted to play peacemaker suggesting the players don’t really care and just wanted to win the World Cup. And, well, if Ramos cannot get his own way the chips are very much down.

Right up until the press conference yesterday morning nobody knew whether he was being sacked or being allowed to continue. The penny dropped when Rubiales emerged and took his seat and there was no Julen. Gone. 48 hours before Spain were due to kick off against Ronaldo’s Portugal.

Oh, and the kicker?

Guess who Lopetegui’s agent is.

Hi, Jorge. That’s made Portugal’s route out of the group a little easier, maybe?

Anyway, that is how you really capture the world’s imagination heading into a World Cup in a weird country.

It makes the big news that Marcus Rashford missed training yesterday feel somewhat trivial, right?

Spain will now be coached by their current sporting director, Fernando Hierro which gave Sham Allarfarce another opportunity to get his voice on the airwaves reminding the world that it was he who brought Hierro to England. Over a decade ago. Back in the days when you were almost cutting egde, Sham.

All this kind of overshadowed the fact that the hosts of the 2026 World Cup were announced at the same time. The USA, Mexico and Canada will join forces and pick up the reigns from Qatar, if there are any left after they’eve had their grubby mitts all over them. Donald Trump might need to do something about that wall, after all.

Speaking of Trump, he has managed to get under Carlos Quieroz’s skin now too. Nike have failed to deliver the football boots promised to the Iran football team due to sanctions put in place by Trump to stop trade between American companies and Iran. Nice one, Donald. See, 2026 isn’t looking like such a good idea now.

And so, we start to look forward to the actual opening ceremony but we can all be very confident that it will not come close to what we witnessed yesterday.