Hierro dodges questions on Spain future after dramatic defeat to hosts Russia

Casemiro

Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev saves the last penalty shot by Spain's Iago Aspas during the round of 16 match between Spain and Russia at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, July 1, 2018.

The team looked somnolent as ever in Moscow against the 70th-ranked host, unable to break through Russia's defense and letting it all play out in a shootout following a 1-1 draw in regulation and extra time.

Russian Federation was represented by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was on his feet and leaning on a protective barrier to watch the shootout.

"I am speechless. "I think Spain is a much better side than Russian Federation".

Zlatko Dalic's team scored at least two goals in each of their three group matches, including firing three past hapless Argentina, to stake a claim as one of the dark horses in this tournament.

The Russia goalkeeper was again involved early in the second half, flying to his left to pluck a spinning Jordi Alba effort from the air.

"We leave with our heads held high." he said.

Sitting alongside was Manchester City midfielder David Silva, a mainstay of Spain's sweet-passing sides for over a decade, but now the subject of mounting criticism, so much so that dropping him may be one of Hierro's first big calls as coach.

"There is a lot of pain in the delegation, the players, the coaching staff,", Hierro told reporters. But subsequent displays against Iran and Morocco have put a question mark against Spain's bid to repeat their 2010 World Cup triumph.

"There are 15 players who have given everything, I have absolutely no complaint".

"Why don't you give us some good news?" he asked, albeit with a smile on his face. "If in hard matches we start handing out goals to the opposition, things are going to be hard for us, so we need to tighten up our defending".

Even the team's commitment was questioned after Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion, who missed one of the penalties in the shootout, had said players didn't watch numerous World Cup games in part because they interfered with the siesta, Spain's traditional nap time.

Coach Fernando Hierro's played in two of those matches, against England in 1996 and, in his final match, against South Korea in 2002.

Forward Artem Dzyuba buried it for his third goal of the tournament to awaken the subdued crowd. Though Spain completed a World Cup game record of 1,029 passes, it rarely threatened Akinfeev's goal.

Having long run out of steam and with several players cramping, Russian Federation were reduced to desperately defending in extra time.

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