World Cup: Andres Iniesta hangs up Spain jersey but coach Fernando Hierro dodges questions on his future

Eight years ago, Iniesta scored the goal that gave Spain their first ever World Cup in South Africa. The Barcelona great is joining Japanese club Vissel Kobe next season.
Eight years ago, Iniesta scored the goal that gave Spain their first ever World Cup in South Africa. The Barcelona great is joining Japanese club Vissel Kobe next season. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MOSCOW (AFP) - Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta announced his retirement from international football on Sunday (July 1), after the 2010 World Cup winners were knocked out of the ongoing edition by Russia on penalties.

"It was not a good way to say goodbye, but football and life are like that," said Iniesta, after his 131st and last appearance for his country. "I am leaving with a nasty taste in the mouth. We screwed ourselves because we didn't manage to make that extra step."

Spain coach Fernando Hierro left 34-year-old Iniesta on the bench for the last-16 match against Russia, but he came on as a second-half substitute.

Spain joined Argentina, Portugal and Germany among the big guns to have been eliminated from this World Cup, but Iniesta said he believed the future for the Spain team was bright.

"The important thing is to get back to successful ways, which isn't always an easy thing to do. It's harder that it might appear. But there is a new generation, we have high-level players."

Eight years ago, Iniesta scored the goal that gave Spain their first ever World Cup in South Africa. The Barcelona great is joining Japanese club Vissel Kobe next season.

Meanwhile, Hierro said it was not the right time to contemplate his future after his team's exit in the last 16. Koke and Iago Aspas saw their spot-kicks saved by Igor Akinfeev as Russia prevailed 4-3 in a shootout following a 1-1 draw in Moscow.

 
 
 
 

Hierro was drafted in as coach on the eve of the tournament when Julen Lopetegui was sacked after it was announced he would take over the Real Madrid job next season.

"That doesn't not worry me, I don't think it's something for right now," said Hierro when asked about his future in the role.

"Now we need to share this difficult moment. We all wanted to do great things at this tournament.

"We're talking about a generation of extraordinary players and we haven't been performing at the level we expect in the World Cup."

Hierro rejected any suggestion the team would have fared better had the Spanish federation not decided to axe Lopetegui after arriving in Russia.

"We had opportunities to win this match but we ended up in a penalty shootout which is basically a lottery, and we weren't lucky," he said.

"I don't think you can talk about the team breaking down or there being any sort of collapse," the former Real Madrid captain added.

"In football there's a fine line between winning and losing."

Spain have not lost over 90 minutes since they were knocked out by Italy in the last 16 at the European Championship in France.

However, they won just one of four games in Russia after Hierro took over the reins.

"We're going home after 24 matches without losing," Hierro said. "This is sad but we have to accept it."

Luis Rubiales, the head of the Spanish Football Federation, said it was going to wait "a few weeks" before coming to a decision on Hierro's position.

"I must thank Hierro and his team for their dedication, and in a few weeks we will get back to work," Rubiales said.

"A person like Hierro, whose behaviour is exemplary, will always find a place in the federation where he can continue his work, but today's not the day to talk about it.

"It's a difficult day because our dream was shattered."