Spain have stunned the football world by sacking Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the opening match of the World Cup, less than 24 hours after Real Madrid had announced he would become their manager after the tournament.

Lopetegui had signed a new contract agreeing to remain with the national side until 2020 in May, but having been announced as Zinedine Zidane’s successor on at Los Blancos, he was relieved of his post on Wednesday morning in a remarkable turn of events.

After flying to the Spanish camp in Russia late on Tuesday, head of the Spanish FA Luis Rubiales confirmed Lopetegui’s departure in a press conference on Wednesday and the odds at apuestas deportivas 24 reflected that was the likely decision.

Per The Guardian, Rubiales was quoted as saying:

We have been forced to dispense with the national coach. We wish him the greatest of luck. The negotiations have occurred without any information to the Spanish FA and we were informed just five minutes before the press release. There’s a way to act that needs to be fulfilled.

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images Sport

Assistant coach Pablo Sanz remains with the team for the time being, as does sporting director and former Real Madrid and Bolton defender Fernando Hierro, either of whom could replace Lopetegui for the tournament.

It remains to be seen how the departure will affect the team’s play, however, in what could be a huge blow to the chances of one of the tournament favourites.