Spain have played hosts eight times at major championships and have lost every time – a remarkable record for a team that has won a World Cup and two European Championships.
Coach Fernando Hierro’s played in two of those matches, against England in 1996 and, in his final match, against South Korea in 2002.
Gerard Pique (right) shares a joke with Lucas Vazquez during the training session on Saturday
Fernando Hierro’s side worked at Luzhniki Stadium ahead of their clash with Russia on Sunday
Hierro was seen engaging in conversation with David Silva and Pique on the turf
At the pre-match press conference at the Luzhniki Stadium on Saturday, Hierro was reminded of Spain’s sorry record against host nations, only for the former Real Madrid stalwart to interrupt.
‘Why don’t you give us some good news?’ he asked, albeit with a smile on his face.
He then added: ‘Statistics are there to be broken. Why are we looking in the rear-view mirror when we’re in the fourth game of the World Cup?
‘It’s about Sunday at 5pm, that’s it. Everything else is in the past.’
Sitting alongside was Manchester City midfielder David Silva, a mainstay of Spain’s sweet-passing sides for over a decade, but now the subject of mounting criticism, so much so that dropping him may be one of Hierro’s first big calls as coach.
The 50-year-old is only in the job because Julen Lopetegui was sacked two days before Spain’s first game at Russia 2018 when he revealed he had agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the tournament.
Sergio Ramos was at the centre of the jokes during the light-hearted session
La Roja have not hit their best form so far with just one win in their opening three games
Despite only limited coaching experience in Spain, Hierro was seen as a safe pair of hands, which is interesting as another of his selection headaches is the patchy form of Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.
Hierro was giving nothing away here, saying only that ’11 players will be taking the field’.
Spain’s performances so far have been underwhelming for a team of such talent: a thrilling draw with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, a laboured win over Iran and a surprisingly fraught draw with Morocco.
‘I’ve been in the team for 12 years, I’m used to criticism,’ said Silva.
‘We played OK in parts of the first game and also the second game. In the end it was a tough group and Portugal also struggled. We just need to play and change people’s minds.’
Ramos is expected to start in the heart of defence alongside Pique on Sunday
Russia, on the other hand, have already changed people’s minds.
They entered the tournament as the worst-ranked host in history – the 70th best team in the world, according to FIFA – but then beat Saudi Arabia and Egypt with two hard-running performances that surprised their…