Spain needs to stay motivated for last World Cup group match
By MIKE CORDER
KALININGRAD, Russia (AP) Spain doesn't need to win its last World Cup group match to advance, but that doesn't mean coach Fernando Hierro wants his team to look past Morocco to the round of 16.
The 2010 champions can go through if they beat or draw with already-eliminated Morocco or if Portugal beats Iran in the other match in their group.
"Mathematically, we have not yet qualified for the next stage, so we need to give the match the importance it deserves," Hierro said Sunday, a day before the match against Morocco.
Hierro said he would "work on the mental aspect of things, especially regarding motivation," with his team, which is locked with Portugal at the top of Group B with Iran just one point behind.
He doesn't want them looking at who their opponent could be in the round-of-16 in Russia. Not yet.
If Spain and Portugal both were to lose their final match, Iran would win the group and goal difference could decide who finishes second.
Elimination for Spain would be its second straight group stage exit. In Brazil four years ago, as defending champion, Spain didn't progress from its group.
Morocco has played well in its two matches, only to lose both 1-0. It will be playing for pride on Monday and coach Herve Renard is also working on his team's mental preparation, trying to fire up his players by casting them as victims of refereeing decisions in Russia.
"I hope we will be galvanized by what has been inflicted on us," the Frenchman said .
Hierro knows that even nations not considered traditional football powers - this is Morocco's first World Cup in 20 years - are well prepared for the tournament.
"At this World Cup and in football in general there is always more equality," he said. "Everybody is working harder, everybody's working at a high level, everybody has great scouts. Everybody does their analysis in a very thorough way. I think this ultimately is good for football and what this sport represents."
More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup
Updated June 24, 2018