Spain coach Lopetegui enjoying pre-World Cup nerves

Madrid, June 8 (IANS) Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has admitted that he had a touch of nerves in an interview published in the Spanish media on the day his side flew to Russia to continue their preparations for the FIFA World Cup.

The Spaniards kick off their campaign on June 15 against Portugal with the country hoping for a repeat of their 2010 triumph, rather than the surprise failure in 2014 when they crashed out of the first stage of the tournament in Brazil, reports Xinhua news agency.

“You are always focused and you feel the World Cup getting closer, which gives you that slight feeling of nerves or excitement,” Lopetegui said, adding that the feeling “had to exist and is good.”

A former goalkeeper, Lopetegui was part of the Spain squad in the 1994 World Cup as a player, and replaced Vicente del Bosque as national team coach after the 2016 European Championships.

“The perspective and responsibility is different. It is the best tournament that exists and something everyone wants to participate in ever since they were children,” he explained.

He said the toughest thing about the World Cup was that “any small detail can see you out, because it’s not a league… Every game is vital,” highlighted the Spain coach, who said that past experiences counted for nothing.

“It (the past) isn’t going to help or hinder us, we have to win depending on how we perform now and how we compete. It is down to what we do,” Lopetegui said.

The coach said his job was to “create a context in which the players can develop their talent, where they are comfortable and can exploit that talent,” stressing that “the team is more important than the player,” but adding the squad is “solid and has been consolidated in a lot of games and our style of play is above any plan or system.”

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