World Cup 2018: Cesc Fabregas left 'speechless' at decision not to start Andres Iniesta as Spain knocked out by Russia

Cesc Fabregas was critical of the decision not to start Andres Iniesta and was disappointed as Spain bowed out on penalties

Jack Watson
Sunday 01 July 2018 18:31
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Spain World Cup profile 2

Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas has criticised Fernando Hierro’s decision to not start Andres Iniesta as Spain were beaten in the round of 16 on penalties by hosts Russia.

Sergio Ramos opened the scoring via Sergei Ignashevich’s touch but Russia equalised from the spot and kept Spain at arm’s length as the tournament staged its first penalty shootout.

Koke and Iago Aspas had their penalties well saved by veteran goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev as Andreas Iniesta watched on after coming on as a substitute in the 67th minute.

“Andres Iniesta in his last game for Spain, probably, doesn’t deserved to go out like this,” said Fabregas who responded with an immediate “yes” when asked on BBC Sport whether Fernando Hierro should have started him.

“I am speechless,” he said. “I think Spain is a much better side than Russia. Russia had a plan which was to go to penalties and pray, and it paid off for them.”

For all of Spain’s impressive passing play, they were lethargic in possession and rarely got past Russia’s stubborn defence and have fallen short of expectation for a second year after exiting in the group stage in 2014.

“Everyone was expecting at least a semi-final or final. So everyone will be disappointed,” said the Chelsea midfielder who blames the managerial chaos at the start of the tournament for their shortcomings. Fabregas is working as a pundit in Russia after being overlooked by Julen Lopetegui who was sacked two days before the tournament started.

“I don’t know if it’s a very negative impact,” said Fabregas of the managerial changes. “It’s definitely something when you’ve been working with a coach for two years, you know exactly what you are doing and he’s got a plan, he’s got the moves of the whole team. He didn’t probably do the right thing at the right time so it’s a shame. I’m sad.”

Russia scored all their penalties but Aspas missed the crucial spot-kick after Koke’s tame effort had given their opponents the advantage. “(Koke’s penalty) is one of the worst penalties you can have. Not in the middle, but on the side, halfway. It’s not difficult for the goalkeeper.”

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