Spain manager Fernando Hierro was magnanimous in victory after his side’s 1-0 win over Iran in FIFA World Cup Group B on Wednesday. Despite Spain’s dominance, only a lucky Diego Costa goal separated the two sides.
Spain’s win – combined with their draw against Portugal in their opening match of the World Cup – means they top the Group B standings on a fair play tiebreaker. Portugal and Spain have the same number of points and the same goal difference, meaning La Roja gets the nod as they’ve received fewer cards.
In his post-match interview with Telecinco – quoted by Marca – Hierro was full of praise for Iran’s performance: “Equality is at its maximum in this World Cup. Iran are a great team, with clear ideas.”
The 50-year-old also hailed the positive influence of his opposite number Carlos Queiroz: “Queiroz has been working with them [Iran] for seven years and they won’t make things easy for anyone.”
Hierro also acknowledged that La Roja had struggled to cope with Iran’s tactical approach. “It’s difficult to get into a rhythm with so much interruption,” he admitted, adding: “At half time we corrected some things and improved after the goal.”
Hierro could hardly have had less preparation for this summer’s World Cup in Russia – he was hastily appointed to replace Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked by the Spanish FA just two days before Spain’s opening match.
Nevertheless, his side were impressive in their thrilling 3-3 draw with Portugal, as well as being worthy winners against Iran.
Hierro’s praise for his players’ performance was rather muted. Quoted by the BBC, he said: “There were times in both halves when things were tough. During the break, we knew we had a plan and we carried it out – my players did what they had to do.”
However, he had no complaints about his side’s work ethic: “Once again my players have given everything,” he said.
La Roja are likely to secure a place in the round of 16, as they only need a draw against Morocco on Monday to progress. The Moroccans will only be playing for pride – they have already been eliminated from the tournament, after losing 1-0 to Portugal on Wednesday.