Population: 40,300,000
Area: 504,782 km²
Capital: Madrid
Language: Spanish

Spain finished second in UEFA group 7 after Serbia & Montenegro and were forced into the play-offs. Spain had few problems beating Slovakia there.
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Mar 01 Spain v Cote d'Ivoire 3-2
May 27 Spain v Russia 0-0
Jun 03 Spain v Egypt 2-0
Jun 07 Spain v Croatia 2-1

Participated: (11) 1934, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002
Best placing: Fourth place 1950
Topscorers: Estanislao Basora, Emilio Butragueño, Fernando Morientes and Fernando Hierro, 5 goals
More detailed history information

Jun 14 - SPA v UKR  in Leipzig
Jun 19 - SPA v TUN  in Stuttgart
Jun 23 - SPA v KSA  in Kaiserslautern

- Spain in Group H -
Jan Alsos: 1st place
Pierre Boisrond: 1st place
Ruud Doevendans: 1st place
Mike Gibbons: 2nd place
Peter Goldstein: 2nd place
Paul Marcuccitti: 1st place *
Felipe Santos: 1st place
* World Cup winners


by Ruud Doevendans

    What if Julio Cardenosa had not missed in front of an open goal against Brazil in 1978? What if Luis Arconada had been as solid as he otherwise always was, in 1982? What if Eloy had not missed a decisive penalty against Belgium in 1986? And what if Spain had not underestimated Yugoslavia in 1990? Or when referee Puhl sent off Italy's Mauro Tassotti after breaking Luis Enrique's nose in 1994? Or if Zubizarreta had not failed to hold a Lawal cross in 1998? Or what if referee Ghandour of Egypt had not disallowed two perfect Spanish goals against South Korea in 2002?

    What if, what if, what if ….. it has always been like that with the Spanish national team at World Cups. Always one of the favourites or at least one of the dark horses, they never stopped shooting themselves in the foot or they were thrown out, just by bad luck. Will they ever play up to their potential, will they ever find referees to do what they are supposed to do? You are a great optimist if you still believe.

    Unlike other years, Spain this time had a hard time qualifying. Finishing second behind Serbia & Montenegro, they had to overcome a play off with Slovakia but left no doubt about who was the strongest. In Madrid Spain overwhelmed their opponents 5-1 which made the return game a formality. The five goals Spain scored should not surprise anyone, since their real strength is in attack. With Fernando Torres Spain have a young striker who is one of my favourites to end up as topscorer of the tournament. At least against Saudi Arabia and Tunisia this bright young man should be able to score a few goals. And if he doesn't, Spain have another great talent with Valencia's David Villa who has been a regular goalscorer in the league. With these two strikers, even captain Raul, the country's most capped outfield player and record goalscorer of all time, is no longer guaranteed a starting place. And what to think about Fernando Morientes, so often a success in the national team but struggling at club level? On the right, Joaquin is a dazzling player and so is Vicente on the left, though his time is running out now as he has sustained a nasty injury. His likely replacement Reyes is a great talent too.

    All great players, but why do they never make it at the highest level? To be more precise, why do they never make it at the national team? At club level, they have confirmed more than once.

    In midfield the Spanish are not so sparkling. Sound players, no doubt about that, but too much the same style. Xabi Alonso, Fabregas, Baraja, Albelda, or even Xavi if he returns in time: all good on the ball, good eye for the situation, but too little bite, too little penetration, too much leaning back. A running midfielder, a man to come into the box, a scoring midfielder could add a lot to the team.

    In goal Spain have no worries. Iker Casillas came into the team at an early age and now at 25 he is already among Spain's 15 most capped players with more than 55 caps to his credit. Casillas will easily make the 100 caps before turning 30, with - being a goalkeeper - years to come by then. José Reina who established himself as the number one at Liverpool will most likely be Casillas' back-up. Casillas leads a steady defence, most likely formed by Barcelona skipper Carles Puyol, Carlos Marchena of Valencia, Betis Sevilla's Juanito and Chelsea's Asier Del Horno. But there are more candidates: Salgado, Sergio Ramos and Deportivo La Coruna's Capdevilla. Spanish defenders are strong in the air and will not have troubles controlling the Arabian and Tunisian strikers. But now they lack pace at the back, surviving against Andrey Shevchenko may be a different story.

    What about the Spanish chances this time? Well, I will be a bit careful after I promoted them to world champions last time. This Spanish team will not be the next champions of the world, but if they fail to reach the next round they should have their Spanish citizenships taken away from them. And from that moment on, well possibly one of South Korea, France - a team way over the top still relying on players too old to shine in a World Cup - and Switzerland. Against these teams, Spain has a fine chance of coming through. But then, most likely Brazil is the next opponent: no single chance of surviving. Maybe it is not such a bad idea to finish second in their group behind the Ukraine. That would mean a possible match-up with Italy, always tense matches with 50/50 outcomes. It might suit Spain better than Ronaldinho and Co.




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