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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Fernando Hierro confident Spain will raise their game against Russia

The 2010 champions face tournament hosts having not found their top gear in the group stages

Spain manager Fernando Hierro oversees his side in training on Saturday as they prepare for Sunday's last-16 clash with Russia at the World Cup. Manu Fernandez / AP Photo
Spain manager Fernando Hierro oversees his side in training on Saturday as they prepare for Sunday's last-16 clash with Russia at the World Cup. Manu Fernandez / AP Photo

Spain are confident they have the tools and the temperament to get past Russia on Sunday and book a place in the World Cup quarter-finals – despite being criticised for being nowhere near their best thus far.

The 2010 world champions, whose tournament was thrown into disarray when manager Julen Lopetegui was dismissed two days before their opening match, were inconsistent throughout Group B.

Excellent in the 3-3 draw against Portugal, Spain laboured to a 1-0 victory against Iran and then looked suspect in the 2-2 draw with Morocco. However, they still managed to secure top spot, setting up a last-16 tie against hosts Russia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

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As a result, manager Fernando Hierro insisted his team are in fine shape ahead of the meeting with Stanislav Cherchesov’s buoyant side.

“We have players that any one of them at any moment can make a difference,” Hierro told a press conference on Saturday. “We have a lot of faith, that’s most important. The players have worked very well. My players are very fit not only physically but mentally.

“We want to be positive and believe everything is going to work out well. We shouldn’t fear the unknown. Nobody knows the unknown. We have trust in our group and in our players.

“All will be settled on details. Tomorrow we’re starting a new tournament. We have to be positive, have faith in ourselves and believe things are going to turn out well. And we all are positive that it will.”

Hierro’s squad boasts extensive experience in the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Gerard Pique.

All three were part of the side that won the 2010 tournament and their knowledge and know-how will be an important factor at what promises to be a raucous Luzhniki.

“We know a football match is decided on the pitch,” Hierro said. “My lads are used to playing in big stadiums, with a lot pressure, playing away from home. So we have clearly in mind that whatever’s going to be achieved will be achieved on the pitch.

“It’s all about tomorrow, what happens at 5pm. The rest is irrelevant. We know we’re going to play against the hosts. They’re going to be supported by the people, watching in the stands and on television. But we’re also going to have 11 million Spaniards no less watching us on television. And we want to do as best we can.”

Asked about the negative headlines Spain have been receiving, midfielder Silva said: “A lot has already been said about criticism. We are professionals - we focus on the football and trying to do the best we can, trying to change people’s opinion. We’re used to it. I’ve been here for 12 years.

“We need to bear in mind there’s another team on the pitch. It was a very tough group and we need to minimise our mistakes. That’s always the key.

"If in difficult matches we’re handing out goals to opponents, things are going to be very difficult for us. The smallest mistake here and you could go back home.”