Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

Five minutes was not enough then.

So how many minutes would have been appropriate? Ten? A hundred?

"There are decisions that we are obliged to take based on an understanding of how you should behave and on ethics," said Luis Rubiales, the President of the Spanish Football Federation, as he explained why the manager of the national team, Julen Lopetegui, had been sacked two days before their opening World Cup match against Portugal in Sochi.

Getting five minutes' notice of Tuesday's (June 12) announcement by Real Madrid that Lopetegui would be Zinedine Zidane's replacement as coach after the World Cup finals did not play well with the newly-ensconced President.

Just after 1pm yesterday afternoon, after discussions with the players, he announced the decision to sack the coach, describing it as an "obligation" on a "sad day"

"You can't do things this way, two or three days before the World Cup," Rubiales said. "We have been compelled to make this decision.

"We are in an extremely difficult situation; this is very, very hard."

Now you see him - now you don't - Spain's World Cup coach Julen Lopetegui has been sacked on the eve of competition following the untimely news that he will take up the vacant Real Madrid job after the tournament ©Getty Images
Now you see him - now you don't - Spain's World Cup coach Julen Lopetegui has been sacked on the eve of competition following the untimely news that he will take up the vacant Real Madrid job after the tournament ©Getty Images

Question. Is the Spanish football team in less of an extremely difficult situation now?

The answer to that is not simple, because football doesn't always work logically.

But logically, it is a ludicrous decision.

The timing of Real Madrid's shock announcement - although did no-one at the Spanish FA have the faintest idea? - could be characterised as showing contempt for the imminent effort of the 2010 World Cup winners.

But how much would it have affected the players who have arrived in Russia under the charge of a manager who has guided them to 14 wins, six draws and no defeats since taking over his position in 2016 following Vicente del Bosque's retirement?

Would they really have been going out against arch-rivals and European champions Portugal thinking: "What's the point in trying now we know the boss will be on his way after the tournament?"

Rubiales reportedly spent yesterday morning talking to players led by the Real Madrid and Spain captain Sergio Ramos, who argued for the coach to continue. Short of putting his FA President in an arm lock, there was nothing the latter could do to change his mind.

Whether Rubiales' nose was out of joint or not, these are the vital moments for teams preparing for great deeds in this tournament. Was it worth jeopardising that just so he could thumb his nose back at the egregious Real chairman Florentino Pérez?

If Spain lose their opening match now, this stance is going to look more and more like a Pyrrhic victory. More and more like someone has put pride before his country's fall.

Stand-in coach Fernando Hierro directs training as Spain's players prepare for their opening World Cup match against Portugal in Sochi tomorrow ©Getty Images
Stand-in coach Fernando Hierro directs training as Spain's players prepare for their opening World Cup match against Portugal in Sochi tomorrow ©Getty Images

I am just wondering if Senor Rubiales has yet had a conversation with his fellow members of the Spanish FA along the lines of the one conducted by Hugh Grant's character William in the film Notting Hill when he tells his friends he has turned down movie star Anna Scott, as played by Julia Roberts.

"What do you think? Good move?" asks William; and one after another his mates do their best to assure him it was, until his barmy Welsh flatmate Spike arrives late and delivers the true verdict: "You daft prick!"

And yet, and yet…

As the 2018 World Cup finals get underway today with the hosts meeting Saudi Arabia, Spain's players are still in capable hands.

The coaching role has been given to Spain's director of football, Fernando Hierro, who represented his country in four World Cups and won three UEFA Champions League titles with Real Madrid, as well as overseeing the 2010 World Cup final victory in his first stint in the director role.

Spain have a team stuffed with talent and experience. Players such as Ramos, or the Barcelona pair of Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta, are entirely capable of remembering and re-applying the patterns that have brought them such success in the last couple of years.

Strange things can happen in sport when teams are up against tough circumstances.

As the Republic of Ireland prepared at their Saipan training base for the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan, their vital midfield operator Roy Keane raged at manager Mick McCarthy before departing.

It was a massively disruptive incident, and Keane was Ireland's most influential player. But his team-mates rallied to the cause, qualifying from their group along with Germany before losing 3-2 on a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw with Spain - for whom Hierro scored first from the spot.

You can go back a bit and recall the efforts of Aston Villa after their manager Ron Saunders resigned mid-season in 1982 with the club in the quarter-finals of the European Cup. Under Saunders' far less brash assistant, Tony Barton, the historic English First Division side went on to win the Cup, defeating Bayern Munich 1-0 in the final.

In the wake of the shock announcement, Pique tweeted interestingly - and perhaps prophetically - citing the example of the Michigan Wolverines basketball team.

Just before the 1989 National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, Michigan's coach Bill Frieder announced he would be joining rivals Arizona State at the end of the season.

Michigan athletic director Bo Schembechler ordered Frieder to leave immediately, and named assistant Steve Fisher as the interim coach for the tournament.

Schembechler famously announced: "A Michigan man will coach Michigan, not an Arizona State man." The Wolverines went on to win the trophy.

The parallels are not exact. Lopetegui has not elected to coach a rival country. But Pique makes his point piquantly. Translated to English, his tweet reads:

"University of Michigan Basketball. 1989. NCAA champion. It would not be the first time it happens. All united, now more than ever."

Yet another reason to love watching the World Cup…