De Gea conceded a total of five goals in the three Group B games – including fumbling a Ronaldo shot in the 3-3 opener against Portugal and conceding twice to bottom nation Morocco in a 2-2 draw as the 2010 World Champions somehow topped the group on just five points.
His uncharacteristic performances have led to mass criticism from the Spanish press which has led to speculation that Hierro was tempted to drop the Manchester United no. 1 for Athletic Bilbao’s Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The Spain boss has denied the claims though, as well as fully backing De Gea by suggesting he was the first name on the team-sheet for the knockout rounds.
“Against Russia, De Gea will play and ten more, there is no debate, he will play. I respect the opinions of everyone, but the one who makes the decisions is us. I have a lot of clear ideas for the match against Russia.”
In the World Cup Round of 16, Hierro’s Spain face a very tricky test against host nation Russia on Sunday at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow as part of what many are considering as the favourable half of the draw.
The only other top performers in the tournament so far as part of that half are Croatia, who Spain could meet in the quarter-finals, and England, who are represented by four of De Gea’s United team-mates – Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.