FIFA World Cup

Fifa World Cup: Ronaldo and Portugal to face disrupted Spain in Iberian derby

The 2010 champions have had an extraordinary turnaround in fortunes after coach Julen Lopetegui as coach.

Spain captain Sergio Ramos and new coach Fernando Hierro displayed a united front as they looked ahead to Friday’s World Cup opener against Cristiano Ronaldo’s European champions Portugal following an extraordinary 48 hours.

Hierro and Ramos posed together, smiling for the cameras, at a press conference inside the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, the venue for the Group B clash between the Iberian neighbours.

Coming into this World Cup, Spain had been seen as one of the outstanding favourites to lift the trophy in Russia after a two-year unbeaten run under Julen Lopetegui.

But Wednesday’s sensational decision by the Spanish Football Federation to sack Lopetegui, in response to the announcement he would take over at Real Madrid after the tournament, has threatened to derail their chances.

Suddenly Hierro – a great former Real and Spain defender but a man with little coaching experience – finds himself in charge of a side eager to show they can still go all the way on Russian soil. “There is nobody better than Fernando. He was a great player and has known us for a long time,” said Ramos, the Spain captain.

There had been fears that the announcement of Lopetegui’s appointment by Real could open up old divisions between the Madrid and Barcelona factions in the Spain squad.

But Ramos showed an eagerness to move on and focus on the competition, while insisting that this week’s events had not upset any relationships. “There are no cracks. We are all individuals and we all think differently, but the collective idea is the same – we are here to go for the World Cup,” said Ramos.

“This is special, it is my first World Cup as captain. In football you learn above all during the bad times. What has happened has united us.”

There were plenty of smiles and embraces between the players as they trained on the pitch in the stunning Sochi stadium, situated a stone’s throw from the beach and the Black Sea. At the same time almost 5,000 kilometres away, Lopetegui was being unveiled as the new Madrid coach.

He described the day he was sacked as “the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother”, and the 51-year-old former goalkeeper will surely find it difficult to watch Friday’s match.

Meanwhile Hierro, whose previous experience as a coach amounts to a season in the Spanish second tier with Oviedo, admitted he will not be making sweeping changes. “We are absolutely fine coming into this game. We know quite clearly what we want. We respect the champions but we have full confidence in the boys and what they have done in these last two years,” said Hierro.

Ronaldo’s last chance?

Image credit: Reuters
Image credit: Reuters

Spain will be coming up against a Portuguese side who have come to Russia as the defending European champions, with Ronaldo knowing this is surely his last shot at winning the World Cup.

Both teams are expected to come through a group also containing Morocco and Iran, but Friday’s game could have a major impact in determining who finishes top.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, is hoping to improve his record in front of goal on this stage – he has scored only three times in three World Cups. “I prefer to have him on our side. We know how important he is, he is a constant danger,” admitted Ramos of his Real Madrid colleague.

While Spain have a doubt over who will start at right-back with Dani Carvajal still struggling for full fitness, Portugal coach Fernando Santos has no injury worries.

He appeared confident of delivering a first victory for his country over Spain at a major tournament since Euro 2004. “This is a ‘Classico’”, said Santos. “We are two countries who have a lot in common, not least the fact we share a border. We are neighbours, but also teams with great quality. We don’t want to be arrogant but we are full of hope.”

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.