The Spanish Football Federation’s decision to relieve Julen Lopetegui of his national team managerial duties just hours to the World Cup came back to haunt them when they were sent packing by obdurate hosts Russia.
The hosts toppled Spain 4-3 in a penalty shoot out after the two teams were impossible to separate at 1-1 after 120 minutes of dour round of 16 action.
Caretaker La Roja boss Fernando Hierro, the hitherto Spain FF technical director, failed to find the right mix of his superstar players to propel his team to the heady heights of South Africa 2010 when they were crowned champions.
Hierro was outsmarted, outfoxed and eventually eliminated by Stanislav Cherchesov’s obdurate Russia in a deeply tactical confrontation.
Spain took the lead in fortuitous fashion when 38-year-old defender Sergei Ignashevich was pressured by Sergio Ramos into deflecting a free kick into his own net.
Russia replied from the spot through hulking centre forward Artem Dzyuba who sent David de Gea scampering for thin air.
The 2010 champions hogged possession but failure to add variety to their attack hampered all efforts to break down Cherchesov’s well organised massed defensive ranks.
It took the late introduction of mobile out and out striking duo Iago Aaspas and Rodrigo for Spain to finally get a look in on Igor Akinfeev’s well protected goal.
During the shootout, Celta Vigo front runner Aspas and Atletico Madrid hard man Koke had their kicks saved for Russia to book an unlikely place in the quarter finals after converting all their kicks.
The host join France and Uruguay as the three confirmed nations in the quarter finals so far.
Russia will play the winner between Denmark and Croatia in the last eight.