Friday, October 19, 2007

Pay Homage To Raúl, But Not Now - Salgado

Raúl's omission from the Spain squad for the weekend's game against Denmark sparked the media into a frenzy that eventually saw coach Luis Aragonés lose his cool. The rant that ensued was caught on film as the Spanish trainer politely asked how many trophies the national team had won with the striker in the side. Madrid were furious and registered a formal complaint to the RFEF, which has led to a speeding up of the idea to pay tribute to Raúl for playing 100 matches for the national team. On the face of it, the plan is a good one, but it now appears to be a way in which to placate Madrid and Salgado thinks it is being done at the wrong time. "I thought players received a homage when they have already retired," he said. "I honestly believe Raúl still has many years ahead of him as a professional."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Real Madrid routs Israeli-Palestinian team

Less than 48 hours after winning the Spanish League title, Real Madrid routed a mixed Israeli-Palestinian team 8-0 Tuesday night in a charity "Peace Match."

Before a crowd of 30,000, Real Madrid played without David Beckham, who did not make the trip. The English midfielder, whose contract with the Spanish club expires June 30, joins Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy next month.

Guti scored four goals, including three goals in the first half against the Peace Team, which included Israel captain Yossi Benayoun and Bolton's Idan Tal.

Raul scored two minutes into the second half, Alvara Negredo made it 5-0, Guti added his final goal, and Ruben de la Red increased the lead to 7-0. Negredo scored again with two minutes left.

The game was organized by the Peres Center for Peace, headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and President-elect Shimon Peres. The center runs a number of Peace Sports Schools in Israel where Israeli and Palestinian children train together.

Real Madrid won the Spanish League by defeating Mallorca 3-1 Sunday night.

"We are very happy to be here, as we believe we have to work to help these kids," Raul said. "The team is very tired but we have to play a spectacular match for the fans and people watching."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Real Madrid Keeps Lead in Spanish League

Real Madrid beat visiting Deportivo La Coruna 3-1 Saturday to keep its Spanish league lead with two rounds left. Sergio Ramos put Madrid ahead in the 29th minute and David Beckham almost made it 2-0 when he hit the post from a free kick.

Deportivo's Joan Capdevila tied it in the 57th, but Madrid captain Raul Gonzalez scored with a header a minute later from a cross by Beckham. Ruud Van Nistelrooy made it 3-1 in the 75th.

Raul was playing his 605th game for Madrid, matching Francisco Gento's total with the Spanish power.

Madrid leads the standings on 72 points, three more than second-place FC Barcelona, which hosted Cadiz later Saturday. Even if the clubs are tied at the end of the season, Madrid will win the title because it has the better record in games between the two.

Villarreal won 3-2 at Valencia, with Diego Forlan scoring twice for the visitors.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Madrid edges Valencia 1-0 behind Gonzalez's strike

Raul Gonzalez scored in the 52nd minute to give Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Valencia and move the team three points off the lead in the Spanish League.

Raul's third goal of the season came from Roberto Carlos' low cross following a swift break down the left wing which also involved Jose Antonio Reyes.

Valencia's defeat yesterday deepened the slump in its league form. The 2002 and '04 champions are in eighth place after gaining just two points from a possible 15.

Madrid's victory at Mestalla stadium was its third straight and was achieved without the injured Ronaldo, David Beckham, Jose Maria "guti" Gutierrez and Ivan Helguera.

The 29-time champions stayed in third place because Sevilla won 3-1 at athletic Bilbao to keep hold of second place.

Two goals by Luis Fabiano and one by Jose Luis Marti extended Sevilla's unbeaten run to six games _ five wins and a draw. Also, Diego Milito scored his ninth goal of the season to help 10-man Zaragoza earn a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo.

Also, it was: racing Santander 4, recreativo Huelva 3; Getafe 0, Levante 0; Real Betis 1, Espanyol 1; Gimnastic Tarragona 2, Mallorca 3; and Osasuna 4, Deportivo la Coruna 1.

FC Barcelona leads the league with 29 points, while Sevilla has 28, Madrid has 26 and Zaragoza has 23.

Valencia, already lacking six players, including Captain David Albelda, lost striker David Villa through injury in the 16th minute.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Raul Gonzalez wanted to quit Madrid

Raul Gonzalez threatened to leave Real Madrid after a recent defeat. Club president Ramon Calderon said the captain told him he was "suffering a lot" and "couldn't sleep" following Madrid's 1-0 loss at Getafe on Oct. 14, the club's first league defeat of the season.

"He said if the situation continued he would leave and free the club from paying the salary of his long contract," Calderon told news agency Efe in an interview published on Tuesday. Raul, who last won a trophy with Madrid in 2003, has enjoyed an improvement since that defeat.

Four days later, he scored in Madrid's 4-1 Champions League victory over Steaua Bucharest and added another in Sunday's 2-0 win over FC Barcelona. The 29-year-old striker has had an up-and-down season.

He ended an 11-month goal drought for Madrid and established himself as the Champions League's all-time scoring leader with 54 goals, but was dropped from the Spain team for the first time in 10 years.

Calderon said Madrid would offer to host Spain's European Championship qualifier against Denmark on March 24 on one condition.

"If Raul's not there, we won't lend them the stadium," Calderon said. Madrid is fourth in the Spanish league with 14 points from seven games, two fewer than leader Barcelona.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Spain seeks to relieve woes in Argentina friendly

Spain hopes to avoid its fourth defeat in six games when it hosts two-time World Cup champion Argentina in a friendly on Wednesday.

The home team and its beleaguered coach Luis Aragones badly need an encouraging result from a match which will inaugurate La Nueva Condomina stadium in the southeastern city of Murcia.

Aragones' problems increased on Saturday when Spain lost 2-0 to Sweden in a European Championship qualifier, leaving the team languishing fifth in the seven-team Group F.

The veteran coach, who has received backing from the country's soccer federation, said Wednesday's game will have no bearing on his future.

"I'm staying on whether we win or lose against Argentina," Aragones told the federation's Web site. "The result won't change anything because ... we have enough work, attitude and time to reach the Euro 2008 finals."

Saturday's setback, without dropped Real Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez, followed a 3-2 loss in Northern Ireland in a qualifier last month. Spain has lost two straight games for the time in 15 years.

"I know, in sporting terms, it's a difficult time for me, but I feel strong and OK," Aragones told the Web site of sports daily As on Tuesday. "Tomorrow's is a big game against an exceptional team which was one of the best at the last World Cup."

Argentina coach Alfio Basile will also seek an improvement after last month's 3-0 defeat to Brazil in London. The game was his first since he returned to the job in place of Jose Pekerman, who quit following the quarterfinal loss to Germany at the World Cup.

"It's the perfect opportunity to remove the bad taste the defeat against Brazil left us with," Basile said.

Basile says he respects Aragones and that the press shouldn't "dramatize" soccer.

"Let's hope Luis continues to work after the game and for as long as his contract runs," he said Tuesday. "I like his idea of soccer."

Basile, who led Argentina to two Copa America triumphs during a four-year spell in the early 1990s, has recalled Zaragoza's Pablo Aimar, Villarreal's Rodolfo Arruabarrena and Valencia's Roberto Ayala to a squad comprising only European-based players. Striker Hernan Crespo and defender Gabriel Heinze are injured.

If central defender Ayala plays he will equal Argentina's record of 106 appearances held by former midfield captain Diego Simeone.

"I don't mean to disparage the Spaniards, but we are about passion," Ayala said. "It's something which the veterans transmitted to the youngsters when we arrived at the national team and which we now try to pass on to the newcomers."

The game will be Argentina's first since playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme announced his retirement from international soccer last month due his mother's health and criticism of his World Cup performance.

Basile is expected to hand Riquelme's role to Aimar, although Borussia Moenchengladbach's Federico Insua is also in the frame.

"Insua and Aimar's style are the same, and the team won't differ much from when Riquelme played. Perhaps there will be more acceleration in midfield, but there will also be pauses," Basile said.

Aragones will again omit captain Raul, Spain's all-time leading scorer with 44 goals from 102 appearances, together with Valencia winger Joaquin Sanchez.

Raul has been replaced in the squad by Valencia's attacking midfielder Miguel Angel Angulo, who at 29 is the oldest member of the squad, while the new captain is Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Spain is without three injured Valencia players — defender Asier del Horno, defender Carlos Marchena and midfielder Ruben Baraja — along with Madrid forward Jose Antonio Reyes.

Argentina has won five of the teams' 10 previous meetings. Spain has three victories and there have been two draws

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

STRIKER Raul Gonzalez ended his 11-month scoring drought for Real Madrid in a big way

Injured for much of last season, Raul scored twice in Real Madrid's 5-1 victory over Dynamo Kiev Tuesday in the Champions League to become the tournament's all-time scoring leader with 53 goals.

The goal moved him one ahead of Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko, who has played most of his career at AC Milan.

Ruud van Nistelrooy also scored two goals for Madrid in the Group E game, improving his Champions League total to 49. Spain winger Jose Antonio Reyes scored the other against Dynamo, which played with 10 men after goalkeeper Olexandr Shovkovskiy was sent off on a straight red card in the 68th.

Lyon, which beat Real Madrid 2-0 two weeks ago, picked up another victory to head Group E, winning 3-0 at Steaua Bucharest. Brazil striker Fred scored for Lyon in the 43rd, Tiago netted 10 minutes into the second half, and Karim Benzema made it 3-0 in the 89th.

"I had no emotions, they were too good for us," Steaua owner Gigi Becali said. "After 15 minutes, I realized that even if we played 100 years we couldn't score against them."

Meanwhile, Arsenal had a 2-0 win over FC Porto.

In Arsenal's victory, Thierry Henry and Alexander Hleb scored. Henry scored in the 38th with a rare header, and Belarus midfielder Hleb made it 2-0 in the 48th from 15m after clever passes from William Gallas and Henry.

Gallas limped off with a hamstring injury in the last few minutes, but manager Arsene Wenger tried to be optimistic.

"It looked serious (initially), but at the moment we are reassured because it does not look too bad," Wenger said.

Wenger also warned that his team is quickly improving.

"We are getting stronger and stronger," he said. "We are sharp and we always looked dangerous, and I feel it has a lot of potential and we are getting better by the game."

Arsenal, last season's runner-up to FC Barcelona, leads Group G with six points in two games. Porto has one point.

Brazilian defender Dudu headed in a 59th-minute goal in CSKA Moscow's 1-0 win against Hamburg. CSKA has four points and the Germans have lost their first two games.

Manchester United won its second straight game in Group F, beating Benfica 1-0 on Louis Saha's 60th-minute goal. Saha evaded two Benfica defenders to score from the corner of the penalty box.

Benfica has one point from a 0-0 draw against Copenhagen two weeks ago.

Celtic picked up its first victory in the group stage, beating Copenhagen 1-0 on Kenny Miller's 36th-minute penalty. Celtic has three points in Group F and Copenhagen has one point from two games.

Miller converted the penalty after Japanese midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura was tripped in the area by Michael Gravgaard at Celtic Park.

Six-time champion AC Milan slogged to a 0-0 draw against Lille in Lens. Milan has four points to top Group H and Lille has two.

Milan's best chances fell to Brazil midfielder Kaka and Italy striker Alberto Gilardino, while Lille's Ivory Coast winger, Abdul Kader Keita, often troubled Milan's defense.

Nicolas Frutos gave Anderlecht a 1-0 lead in the 25th, but Julio Cesar equalized three minutes later. Anderlecht has two points in two games and AEK has one point from two.

Today's games: Group A: Levski vs. Chelsea, Werder Bremen vs. Barcelona. Group B: Spartak Moscow vs. Sporting Lisbon, Inter Milan vs. Bayern Munich. Group C: Liverpool vs. Galatasaray, Bordeaux vs. PSV Eindhoven. Group D: Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Olympiakos, Valencia vs. AS Roma.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Raul makes 100th appearance for Spain

Spain captain Raul made his 100th appearance for the national side when he led his side in their friendly international against Iceland in Reykjavik on Tuesday.

Only goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta, who made 126 appearances between 1986 and 1998, has played more games for Spain than the 29-year-old.

The Real Madrid striker, who made his international debut against the Czech Republic in October 1996, is also Spain's all-time record scorer with 44 goals.

He has played in three World Cups and two European championships.

(Writing by Simon Baskett in Madrid)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Raul reaches century mark

Madrid ace has found the net 44 times for Spain since his debut a decade ago and had hoped to grab a landmark goal against Iceland.

Raul told Marca: "A hundred games in the shirt of Spain is something to be very proud and happy about.

"I am happy to have reached that figure. It is a very important achievement.

"To have played for the national team so many times shows I have been working hard.

"It is a shame the match did not turn out as we'd hoped. It was tough for us. We gave it everything.

"But the most important thing is that qualifying for Euro 2008 starts in 15 days and we have a good feeling about this."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Raul Laments Exit

Spain captain Raul was devastated following his team's exit from the World Cup in the second round after a 3-1 defeat to France.

Spain had taken a 28th-minute lead with David Villa converting from the penalty spot before the French hit back with Franck Ribery equalising before half-time.

Late second-half goals from Patrick Vieira and Zinedine Zidane sunk Spain and guided the 1998 champions into the last eight.

"Today the real World Cup began and it has been a big disappointment for us," said Raul, who had hoped to celebrate his 29th birthday with a place in the quarter finals with Brazil.

Spain has never progressed past the quarter-final stages in this tournament but having won all their group games in convincing fashion, netting eight goals and only conceding once, they really believed this could be their year.

"It's always the same," said Raul.

"In the moment of truth we fail to deliver, we don't prove our worth.

"The fact is that our fantastic start served for nothing because the important thing was to win tonight."

Real Madrid striker Raul praised their rivals, who were considered the underdogs having only scraped through their group.

Raymond Domenech's men had drawn with Switzerland and South Korea before defeating Togo to finish second in Group G.

"We faced a great French team tonight," said Raul.

"They have used their experience to good use and have played at a high level.

"They have proved tonight that this team is by no means dead but they are alive and well.

"I wish them the best of luck."

Raul had been an uncertainty going into the tournament having sustained a serious injury earlier this year.

Luis Aragones' decision to included him in the squad for Germany had been given a mixed reception, with the Madrid captain having struggled to make an impact this season.

He did score the equaliser against Tunisia to inspire Spain to a 3-1 triumph in their second group game.

Despite the setback, Raul is determined to bounce back.

"I want to continue to play for the national team," he said.

"I hope that I will be called up by this coach or whoever takes over.

"That is my intention and what happened tonight doesn't change this."

Bottle crashed says Raul

But the champagne stayed corked as Spain, who rattled eight goals in the group stage, headed for the exit. "It's always the same," said Raul. "In the moment of truth we fail to deliver, we don't prove our worth. Our fantastic start served for nothing because the important thing was to win tonight."
Raul insists he will still play for Spain, despite losing to France. He added: "That is my intention and what happened tonight doesn't change this."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Raul aims to have last word at finals

Raul's usual goal celebration involves a brief kiss of his wedding ring but this time he careered off to the corner packed with Spanish fans, punched his chest and pointed to the crest on his red shirt.

Moments later the Spain captain was enveloped by every player on his team bar the goalkeeper. It was only the second time he had scored since October.

The goal, a trademark poacher's effort netted on the rebound, cancelled out Tunisia's early lead and restored the confidence of a side running out of ideas about how to break down the North Africans's muscular back four.

Spain proceeded to tear into the Tunisian defence and ran out 3-1 winners courtesy of two late Fernando Torres strikes.

It should not have come as a surprise, but it says much about the predicament of a player who has for so long been the talisman of the Spain team that a single goal meant so much.

Three years ago Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson hailed the Real Madrid striker as the finest player in the world after he scored twice during a 3-1 victory in the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final at the Bernabeu.

"Real buy these big players like Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo but I think the best player in the world is Raul," he said. "I hope he doesn't like travelling. Failing that we will stop him entering the country."


Ironically, a case of acute appendicitis ruled the Spaniard out of the return leg and since then Raul's career has taken a downward turn.

He scored 16 league goals that season and another six in Europe, the following campaign he notched 11, then nine and this term he managed a paltry five.

Real have not won a trophy since 2003, Raul has become increasingly marginalised at the club as foreign galacticos like Ronaldo, David Beckham and Robinho hog the headlines and his form has dipped alarmingly.

Pushed further and further away from goal and expected to play more like a midfielder than a striker, Raul has lost his sharpness, his vision and his spontaneity.

He did beat Alfredo di Stefano's European Cup scoring record by totting up his 51st goal at the start of this season, but that mark was soon erased by Ukraine goal machine Andriy Shevchenko.

Still there was always the outlet of the national team, although even that was threatened by a serious knee injury in November as he miscued a shot during Real's humiliating 3-0 defeat by arch-rivals Barcelona at the Bernabeu.

Instead of taking the more usual course of action and having an operation with the consequent risk missing the World Cup, Raul decided to opt for more conservative treatment in the hope of a rapid recovery.


The gamble paid off as he returned to action a little over three months later, though his form did not. Spending much of the late season on the sidelines at Real, his place in the Spain side even came under question and a subject of national debate.

Although he only turnw 29 later this month his critics believe his career is in terminal decline.

It is not a question of age they say, but rather like a car -- friend and club colleague Fernando Hierro once likened him to a Ferrari -- the number of km accumulated by the engine.

Raul has been playing at an elite level for 12 seasons and has a medal collection, which includes three European Cups, four league titles and two World Club Cups, that would be the envy of most players when they end their careers.

He has twice been top scorer in the European Cup and Primera Liga, he is Spain's all-time top scorer with 44 goals in 97 games and their equal highest marksman at World Cups with five.

But his admirers, and Spain coach Luis Aragones is among them, believe he still has plenty to offer, not just as a player but also because of his importance in captaining the squad.

He has yet to win anything on the international stage for Spain and his goal against Tunisia proved that he still has the ability to decide matches.

"I'm not in as bad a condition as some would like to believe," Raul turned and mumbled to one reporter before the Tunisia match. The whole of Spain hopes he is right

Friday, June 09, 2006

Spain captain Raul Gonzalez hurt his right toe in practice Friday

The Real Madrid forward "hit the ball bad" in one of the training exercises, but was not seriously injured, team doctor Genaro Borras said.

Borras said Raul had some pain in his "first toe," without saying exactly which toe.

Moments earlier, Raul had walked off the field, carrying his soccer shoes, with no obvious signs of injury.

Now in his third World Cup, Raul is the Spain's all-time leading scorer. He saw a seven-month scoring drought end this year with a goal in the Spain's penultimate warmup against Egypt.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Raul scores as Spain beat Egypt

Spain defeated Egypt 2-0 in an international friendly on Saturdays, with goals from strikers Raul and Reyes.

Raul was visibly relieved when opening the score for the home side in the 14th minute. The Real Madrid forward had not scored for the national side since October and pressure was starting to mount.

Arsenal's José Antonio Reyes added a second goal in the 56th minute, and 2-0 would also be the final score in Elche, near the town of Alicante.

The African champions did manage to create some chances but goalkeeper Iker Casillas looked stable and kept a clean sheet.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Raul's yellow card

The Real Madrid star faced the wrath of Spain coach Luis Aragones after turning up to a get-together in a yellow surf-style t-shirt.

Aragones, who follows the religion of kabbalah, believes the colour is bad news, despite the fact it makes up half of the Spanish flag.

The incident at the Las Rozas ground was reported by the El Pais newspaper, under the headline "Raul, with the forbidden colour".

The article read: "Apparently Raul does not know, or else is not worried, about the fact that yellow is an object of vexation to his coach.

"Luis Aragones, who practises kabbalah, considers it a colour which brings bad luck."

The paper said Aragones shouted to the player: "Raul, take it off, take it off!" as soon as he spotted him.

El Pais claims the manager's fear of yellow is so strong that he once ordered a set of training cones in the offending shade to be replaced with red ones.

Spain are in line to play Brazil in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Could be interesting.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Raul backs Laudrup for Real Madrid job

Real Madrid captain Raul has tipped Michael Laudrup to be the club's next coach.

Laudrup, currently in charge of Brondby, is on the shortlist of candidates to succeed Juan Ramon Lopez Caro next season.

Raul said: "Why could he not coach Madrid? He has already shown he knows what to do and I like his philosophy. If he wishes to return to Spain, I would welcome him.

"I think that he could do great things at Madrid. People have not forgotten what he did for this club."

Raul added: "He is probably the best player I have played with and is a great person. I will never forget how he helped me."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Liverpool boss Benitez wants Real’s Raul

European Champions League holders Liverpool have set their sights on Spanish forward Raul Gonzalez, who appears to be no longer wanted at Real Madrid, the Daily Mirror reported Wednesday.

The Mirror said Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez, who knows Raul well from his time as Real's B-team coach, wants the 28-year-old to spearhead a new-look attack.

Real are set to off-load several stars in summer and according to the report Liverpool aim to reshape their attack, with Benitez ready to let go of Djibril Cisse, Robbie Fowler and Fernando Morientes.

The Mirror said that Liverpool would join a bidding race for Raul because they believe Real will let him go for a free transfer.

Raul was the only local “Galactico” on the team of Real, for which he has played 12 years. But the record scorer in the Champions League with 51 goals is no longer a regular starter in Madrid.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Raul to make World Cup squad, says coach

Spain coach Luis Aragones says captain Raul Gonzalez will make his World Cup squad even though the striker has been recently dropped by Real Madrid.

Raul has struggled to find form since returning from serious left knee damage — his worst injury in an 11-year career — sustained against FC Barcelona in November.

He was omitted from Madrid's team, which drew 1-1 with Barcelona last Saturday. It was the first time he had been dropped in 30 games against the Catalan powerhouse.

``I know he will play again, that he'll be in Madrid's first team in what remains of the league and I'm sure he will go to the World Cup. He'll earn it,'' Aragones was quoted as saying by sports daily As on Tuesday.

Aragones said it was ``possible'' Raul wouldn't be picked if Spain's opening game in the tournament was to be played now.

Lavish in praise

But the coach praised Raul, who is Spain's all-time leading scorer with 42 goals in 92 internationals, for his display and headed goal in the 1-1 draw with Serbia-Montenegro in a World Cup qualifier last September.

``He almost won single-handed the match with Serbia not so long ago. He is a fundamental player for us,'' Aragones said.

Spain's opening game in the World Cup is against Ukraine on June 14. Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are also in Group H. — AP

Friday, March 24, 2006

Real salvages draw with Zaragoza

The strike by Ronaldo, making his first league start since club president Florentino Perez resigned on Feb. 27, tied it with a 48th-minute goal by Diego Milito, the Argentine's 14th of the season.

Madrid's draw appeared to deal a mortal blow to its faint hope of catching leader FC Barcelona, which it trails by 13 points with nine games remaining.

Osasuna replaced Madrid in second position with a 2-0 victory over lowly Real Sociedad, while Valencia dropped to fourth by drawing 1-1 with regional rival Villarreal.

Barcelona, which beat Getafe 3-1 on Tuesday, leads the league with 67 points. Osasuna has 55, Madrid 54 and Valencia 53.

Other 29th-round results were: Mallorca 1 Cadiz 0, Athletic Bilbao 1 Espanyol 1, Deportivo La Coruna 2 Malaga 1, Real Betis 1 Racing Santander 0, and Alaves 1 Celta Vigo 0.

On Thursday, Atletico Madrid hosts Sevilla.

Ronaldo's goal prevented Zaragoza's second victory over Madrid at La Romareda stadium in six weeks. Zaragoza humiliated Madrid 6-1 in the Copa del Rey semifinals and eventually won 6-5 on aggregate.

The Brazilian was joined in Madrid's starting lineup by David Beckham, who was omitted in last Sunday's 0-0 draw with Real Betis.

Milito, who scored four goals against Madrid last month, broke the deadlock by running in to steer home Ewerthon's low cross.

Lopez Caro responded by bringing on Zinedine Zidane and Raul Gonzalez in the 68th minute but Madrid didn't begin to rally until Beckham hit the bar 20 minutes later.

The visitors equalized two minutes into injury time after Zaragoza goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez dropped the ball, allowing Ronaldo to fire home.

Osasuna midfielder Inaki Munoz opened the scoring against Real Sociedad at El Reyno de Navarra stadium with a sixth-minute volley, with captain Patxi Punal sealing the team's club record 17th win of the season on a last-minute penalty.

Valencia dominated Villarreal at Mestalla stadium until the 44th-minute ejection of its forward Miguel Angel Angulo after receiving a second yellow card.

Midfielder Ruben Baraja gave Valencia the lead six minutes earlier with a long-range curling free kick.

Villarreal then made the most of its numerical advantage and Diego Forlan netted from close range to equalize in the 70th, with Juan Roman Riquelme spurning a golden chance to win the game 13 minutes later when his penalty was saved by Santiago Canizares.

Valencia's Argentine forward Pablo Aimar was carried off on a stretcher just before time with what appeared to be a serious injury.

Mallorca forward Victor Casadesus' 16th-minute goal proved enough to beat struggling Cadiz and extend the team's unbeaten run to six games since coach Gregorio Manzano took charge.

Fran Yeste's strike deep into injury time earned Bilbao a 1-1 draw with Copa del Rey finalist Espanyol which boosted the team's hope of avoiding a first relegation in its history.

Juanfran Torres scored for Espanyol in the 39th minute, four minutes after Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz missed a 35th-minute penalty.

Victor Sanchez scored from two second-half free kicks to bring Deportivo its first victory in seven home games and leave last-place Malaga winless in seven games.

Sergio (Duda) Barbosa's 36th-minute deflected shot opened the scoring for Malaga, for which Juan Rodriguez and Alexis Ruano were ejected in injury time.

Betis rose from the relegation zone by beating Santander, only its second win in the last seven matches.

Santander defender Pablo Pinillos was ejected in the 29th minute, with forward Edu Schmidt scoring the winner nine minutes later.

Alaves also moved out of the bottom three with a hard-earned victory over Celta, courtesy of an 86th-minute penalty by John Aloisi.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Raul scolds Ronaldo for timing of complaints

Ronaldo protested Monday, a day before Madrid played Arsenal in the Champions League, saying he may be forced to leave at the end of the season. Madrid lost the second-round, first-leg match 1-0 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

"His only mistake was in the day. It wasn't the best time. He disturbed the magic of the Champions League thinking of himself more than the team," Raul was quoted as saying by news agency Efe on Wednesday.

Raul said Madrid players "would help him so he feels better."

"We need Ronaldo at his best and he must fulfill his obligation by scoring goals for the team. He is loved at the Bernabeu when he does things well," the Spain striker said.

On Wednesday, Madrid denied a report suggesting it may sell Ronaldo at the end of the season, while AC Milan president Adriano Galliani said he would welcome the chance to sign the Brazilian.

Ronaldo has scored 94 goals in 144 appearances for Madrid.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Raúl returns to Real Madrid after missing three months to injury

Raul was named in the Real squad for the first time in three months ahead of Saturday's league match against Alaves.

The 28-year-old suffered a partial tear of the cruciate ligament and damaged the cartilage in his left knee when he miscued a shot on 19 November.

Real Madrid entertain Arsenal in the first leg of their last 16 tie on Tuesday, 21 February.

Doctors at the Spanish club followed a conservative programme of treatment for Raul's injury rather than opt for an operation in the hope the player would make a quicker recovery.

Raul is expected to skipper Spain at the World Cup in Germany.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Barcelona seeks to end slump against Betis

Barcelona has lost its past two league games, allowing Valencia and Real Madrid to creep closer in the standings and inject life into the title race. Coach Frank Rijkaard's team has also recently been eliminated from the Copa del Rey.

Barcelona, with 52 points from 23 games, now leads Valencia by six points and Madrid by seven.

Striker Samuel Eto'o seemed unconcerned by his team's slump, saying its six-point advantage still represented a large gap.

"We're under no pressure because we can lose twice while other teams can't. If Valencia slips, up they'd be nine points behind. And another team (Madrid) 10. So who should be more worried?" said Eto'o, who was expected to be named Africa's player of the year for the third straight season in Abuja, Nigeria later Thursday.

The defending champion will be relieved to welcome back Brazil striker Ronaldinho, who was suspended for the defeats against Atletico Madrid and Valencia.

Ronaldinho, who helped Barcelona gain 46 points from 57 in his 19 league appearances this season, will be joined by midfielder Deco, who has recovered from injury.

Injured Ludovic Giuly and suspended Rafael Marquez will be sidelined, while Lionel Messi is likely to be saved for next Wednesday's Champions League game at Chelsea.

Betis coach Llorenc Serra Ferrer, who was in charge of Barcelona for most of the 2000-01 season, badly needs his 16th-place team to pull off a surprise after losing three of its last four games.

Valencia's 1-0 win over Barcelona last weekend has increased its belief it can win its third league title in five seasons.

Striker David Villa, who has scored the team's winning goals in the last two games, said Valencia will benefit from its lack of involvement in other competitions.

"We only have the league to concentrate on. I hope Barcelona and Madrid get affected by the Champions League and we stay on form," Villa told sports daily Marca.

On Sunday, Valencia aims for its fifth win in six games when it visits 13th-place Real Sociedad, which has won once and lost once under new coach Gonzalo Arconada.

Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Canizares, who has conceded just four goals in the team's 12-game unbeaten streak, will be making his 250th league appearance for the club.

Valencia continues to be without injured Patrick Kluivert, Vicente Rodriguez, Roberto Ayala and Edu. Forward Miguel Angel Angulo is suspended.

Madrid will feel mixed emotions when it hosts Alaves on Saturday.

The team was heartened by its rousing display which crushed Zaragoza 4-0 in the Copa del Rey semifinal, second leg on Tuesday. However, the victory wasn't enough to overturn a 6-1 deficit from the first leg.

Madrid's elimination left it with the Spanish league and the Champions League to target in its attempt to lift its first major trophy since 2003.

"After such an enormous effort, we want compensation. We have two competitions left and we have to keep going. The team is making spectacular progress. We have commitment, work, optimism and unity," Madrid coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro said.

Madrid, which has won its last five league games, may be boosted by the inclusion of captain Raul Gonzalez in the squad for the first time since he suffered a serious knee injury in November.

Lopez Caro will lack two midfielders, suspended Thomas Gravesen and injured Pablo Garcia and, with Tuesday's Champions League game with Arsenal in mind, may rest Zinedine Zidane and Jonathan Woodgate.

Alaves, which looked a clear relegation favorite a month ago, has lost just once - to Barcelona - in its last five matches and risen to 15th position.

Last-place Mallorca will be under Gregorio Manzano for its visit to 18th-place Malaga. Manzano began his second spell in charge on Wednesday following the resignation of Hector Cuper.

In this weekend's other 24th-round games, it's: Cadiz vs. Osasuna; Deportivo La Coruna vs. Zaragoza; Sevilla vs. Celta Vigo; Villarreal vs. Espanyol; Racing Santander vs. Athletic Bilbao; and Getafe vs. Atletico Madrid.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Real Madid captain returns to training after injury

Raul Gonzalez, captain of Real Madrid soccer club, trained with the rest of the team for a few minutes on Friday, for the first time since his November knee injury, the team said in a statement published on its website.

Gonzalez received a round of applause from his collegues, celebrating his rapid return to form, and even scored a goal during a training game, the statement said.

The footballer injured his left knee in a November first division match against Real Madrid's arch-rivals Barcelona, and it was feared he would be out for the rest of the season, and might well not play in the World Cup, which begins in Germany in June.

The Madrid captain had asked the manager to take part in training, and all his colleagues felt pleased to see him participate.

Madrid's management said they would not force the pace of Gonzalez's recovery, but they had noted his rapid improvements. They said they would increase his workload by stages and it would not be long before he would be able to join in a whole day's training like any other player.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Barcelona seek club record victory

Last weekend's 2-1 victory over Sevilla equalled the league leader's 11-game run in the 1955-56 season, when they managed 10 domestic wins and one in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup.

Barcelona have scored 34 and only conceded four goals during their league and Champions League streak, leading midfielder Rafael Marquez to conclude the defending champions are "on a higher rung than last season".

"We've got to keep on piling up the points. If we can break records that's even better but we must always keep our minds on the next game, the most important one," Marquez said.

The defending champions look unlikely to be troubled by Cadiz, who have gained only two points from their last seven games and have slipped to 16th place.

Barcelona will be without injured midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Mark van Bommel, although the team will be boosted by Marquez and Deco returning from suspension.

Coach Frank Rijkaard's team heads the standings with 34 points, ahead of Osasuna on goal difference. Real Madrid are next with 28, two more than Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruna, Valencia and Celta Vigo.

Barcelona's closest challengers meet Sunday when Osasuna visits Madrid, for which coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro will make his home debut.

Lopez Caro, who became Madrid's fifth coach in the past 2 1/2 years when he replaced the fired Vanderlei Luxemburgo on Dec 4, guided his team to a morale-boosting 2-0 win at Malaga last weekend.

Madrid will again lack injured captain Raul Gonzalez and defender Jonathan Woodgate, while Zinedine Zidane is a doubt with an ankle problem.

Osasuna's Raul Garcia said despite their continuing upheaval, Madrid were "still one of the best teams in the world".

"It's going to be a hard game even though Real Madrid is going through a pretty bad patch. A lack of concentration in this type of clash can cost you the game," the teenage midfielder said.

This weekend's other 16th-round games are: Villarreal vs Getafe; Celta Vigo vs Deportivo La Coruna; Sevilla vs Real Sociedad; Espanyol vs Zaragoza; Athletic Bilbao vs Real Betis; Alaves vs Valencia; Mallorca vs Atletico Madrid; and Racing Santander vs Malaga.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Raúl Awaits Green Light To Train

Real Madrid skipper Raúl says he is eager to resume light training, but must first wait to hear if surgery is necessary for his injured left knee.

"I expect to work extremely hard for the rest of the year, although I'm waiting to hear from the doctors," said the veteran forward. "I hope I don't have to have surgery because I'm eager to start some ball work and running."

"The one positive is that I get to spend more time at home," said Raúl, who recently celebrated the birth of twins with his wife.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Real Madrid fires Luxemburgo

"The board has taken the decision that Vanderlei Luxemburgo will not continue in charge of Real Madrid on the basis of a report by the managers of the club's sports section. The club has been in contact with both Luxemburgo and Raul Gonzalez, captain ofReal Madrid, to inform them," Madrid said in a statement.

The Brazilian is the fifth coach to leave the club in the past 2 1/2 years, during which it has failed to win a major trophy.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Real Madrid CF 1-0 Getafe CF

Madrid got back to winning ways in the Spain on Saturday with a Ronaldo strike on 17 minutes giving them their first league victory in three, following a draw and a defeat in their last two games. The goal for the Brazilian striker was particularly sweet as it marked his return from injury in a game that Madrid finished with ten men after having David Beckham dismissed after an altercation with Getafe striker Riki.

Coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo, who was on the wrong end of some criticism from the home fans despite the win, was without the services of Jonathan Woodgate (thigh) and club captain Raúl González (knee) because of injury, while defender Sergio Ramos was serving a one-match suspension.

Luxemburgo admitted: "I have no doubts that the Bernabéu isn't happy. I'm not happy, I'm happy with the result, but not with the way we played. After Beckham's dismissal in the second half, we backed away. With so many injured players we've been looking for players to get more rhythm. Zinedine Zidane, for example, was playing better today. It's time to win and to calm down again. The draw against Real Sociedad [de Fútbol] and this victory have helped us recover."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Perez confident Real can still challenge Barca

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is confident his team will recover from their poor start to the season and challenge Barcelona for the league title.

"We have all been surprised by what has happened so far this year," Perez told television programme Formula Marca. "We have probable got a better team than ever before, certainly the most well balanced one."

Real spent 90 million euros ($105.9 million) on new recruits in the close season, including Brazilian striker Robinho and Spain defender Sergio Ramos, but they lie in sixth in the table, six points behind leaders and arch-rivals Barcelona.

The Catalans, who crushed Real 3-0 at the Bernabeu last month, have also dominated the year's major individual awards.

Barca forward Ronaldinho was named European Footballer of the Year and has been shortlisted along with team mate Samuel Eto'o for FIFA's world player award.

Perez insists, however, that Real are the bigger club and that his side's disappointing showing can be explained by a lack of continuity.

"What with the late arrival of the new signings, injuries to 12 players and international call-ups, we've had too many disruptions," he said. "If we don't have any more injury problems we can make this into a winning team."

Leading players such as Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Raul and David Beckham have suffered injuries, but Perez dismissed suggestions part of the problem was his insistence that the big signings play as often as possible.

"The coach has complete freedom to do what he thinks fit," he said.

"What is clear, though, is that it doesn't make sense to sign the best players in the world and then leave them out, unless they are injured or have lost form. But I have never told a coach which players should play."


The side's poor run has put Real boss Vanderlei Luxemburgo under heavy pressure, with fans and the Spanish media calling for his head.

Perez, however, believes coaching Real Madrid needs specialist skills making it different from any other job.

"There is no other team that has so much talent, and administering that talent and magic and bringing it together is not an easy task," he said.

"There are lots of people who are capable at coaching Valencia, Barcelona or Atletico (Madrid) and maybe not so many who are capable of coaching Real.

When asked if Luxemburgo would still be in charge of the club next season, Perez replied: "At the moment no one is questioning Luxemburgo. If I answered differently it would mean we didn't have any faith in him."

Perez said the coach had not asked him to sign any new players during the January transfer window, but added that if Raul's knee injury proved serious then they would recruit a new striker.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Injury puts Raul Gonzalez out of action for two months

A knee injury will prevent Real Madrid's Raul Gonzalez, captain of Spain's national soccer team, from playing for at least six weeks in the Spanish league, the UEFA Champion's League and in the national team, Real Madrid doctor Juan Carlos Hernandez said on Monday.

Gonzalez damaged the cartilage in his knee in the Barcelona-Real Madrid game on Saturday, a much-anticipated Derby which Barcelona won 3-0. A magnetic resonance scan of his knee on Monday showed that he had also partially torn a ligament as well as rupturing a synovial capsule. His five goals this season make him one of the Spanish league's top 10 goal-scorers.

Real Madrid doctors will do further tests on Gonzalez's leg this week. In the worst case scenario he could be out of action for seven months, preventing him from playing in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

"If it is only the cartilage then the recovery time is a month and a half to two months, but if the ligament tear is more serious then the recovery time could be much longer," said Hernandez. He added that Gonzalez is in good shape and should recover quickly.

"He has played at the highest level of the game for years and has never hurt himself. This is an important point in his favor. In addition, we have seen that his other knee is very stable and supports movement."

The injury is bad news for Real Madrid, which already has three of its international players off the field due to injuries.

Ronaldo Nazario is suffering arthritis of his left ankle, Thomas Gravesen has an injured right knee and Jonathan Woodgate has torn the muscles of his right thigh.

Real Madrid will play Olympique de Lyon on Wednesday, in a battle for first place in the Champion's League's Group F.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Spain looks to the future after World Cup qualification

Spain coach Luis Aragones and his players greeted the team's eighth straight qualification for the World Cup finals with satisfaction - and a sense that the real work is about to begin.

Spain drew 1-1 with Slovakia in Bratislava on Wednesday to win 6-2 on aggregate and take its place with 31 other teams in Germany next year. "Spain has always qualified for the last 30 years, so there's not a lot to celebrate. But I'm content, we've done the job," Aragones said.

Although Spain only made it through the playoffs after finishing as runner-up to Serbia and Montenegro in qualifying Group 7, striker David Villa said the side should feel pleased to have achieved its aim.

"In the end we have qualified for the World Cup which is what we set out to do," said Villa, Spain's goal-scorer Wednesday.

Spain must now attempt to address its reputation as perennial underachievers. The team has only reached the last four once - back in 1950.

Aragones, who is unbeaten in 18 games since taking charge, said improvement should be the major aim.

"We want to get closer to the teams which win, to be with the strongest sides. If we keep our feet on the ground, we must believe we can manage that," Aragones said.

Captain Raul Gonzalez, the national team's all-time scorer with 42 goals in 92 matches, said Spain could "do something special" in the tournament.

"It will be very complicated but we have time to dream. We have to go there with humility, take things as they come, reach the last 16, and from then on it's a lottery," Raul was quoted as saying by news agency Efe.

Spain will be included with defending champion Brazil, host Germany, Argentina, England, France, Italy and Mexico as top seeds if FIFA maintains the criteria it has employed over the last two tournaments. The organizing committee meets Dec. 6, three days before the draw in Leipzig.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Garcia is Raul's successor

Thousands of spanish jokers’ hats worn by Spain supporters bobbed up and down as a Mexican wave swept around the Vicente Calderón Stadium on Saturday, a great night when World Cup qualification was all but secured with a 5-1victory over Slovakia in the first leg of their play-off. Yet these antics occurred long before victory was assured; in fact, the party was in full swing three hours before kick-off.

The whole event was a joy to behold yet there was a lack of tension in Madrid that seemed incongruous with a match in which the stakes were so high. The locals certainly celebrated heartily at the final whistle, but it was hard not to recall the regular observation that the national team is far from an obsession. There seemed a lack of intensity among the crowd that meant Spanish fingernails remained unbitten.

Concerned as he was with the fortunes of Luis Aragonés’s team, José, the Real Madrid-supporting taxi driver, was more occupied with how his team would fare against Barcelona in the Spanish league next Saturday. He is unlikely to be alone among his fellow Real fans, while many Barcelona followers are so detached from the national team that they would rather throw their weight behind a Catalan XI. Some Basques would favour a team of their own and such views prompted a banner at the Vicente Calderón that proclaimed in response “Una bandera, una nacion” — one flag, one nation.

Spain steer clear of Barcelona’s Nou Camp for this reason and they chose Atlético Madrid’s 55,000-seat arena in the belief that they could not fill the much larger Bernabéu across the city. The game was announced proudly as a sell-out although many empty seats were visible, perhaps because some people didn’t fancy a soaking in the largely uncovered stadium on a night when rain fell incessantly from early evening.

It was, though, a Catalan, Luis García, whose hat-trick set Spain on the road to Germany. The Liverpool midfield player even had a role in a fourth goal, worrying Roman Kratochvil into handling the ball in his own penalty area, after which Fernando Torres scored from the spot and Marian Had was sent off for protesting, for which he earned a second yellow card.

There was no animosity from the crowd towards García — even when his dreadful back-pass allowed Szilard Nemeth to pull Slovakia back to 2-1 shortly after half-time — but it was interesting that he received a quieter ovation when substituted than the one afforded his replacement, Fernando Morientes, a former Real player.

Morientes, a team-mate of García at Anfield, quickly cemented his hero status by heading the fifth goal as the clocked ticked towards midnight. As often happens in Spain, the match kicked off at 10pm; in a country with a culture of mañana, football seems keen to take the word literally.

Luis Aragonés, the Spain coach, has observed that “we’re not as physically strong as other sides”, but his men’s resolve was barely tested by a meek Slovak team. Raúl, another player with Madrid connections who was welcomed with particular affection, linked attacks skilfully on the slick surface, while Xavi, a rival in Real-Barcelona matches, showed glimpses of the form that tore apart Chelsea last season.

José Antonio Reyes, of Arsenal, had a decent game on the wing but he was outshone by Vicente, his replacement, who set up the final two goals. The result placed a triumphant spring in the step of Manolo, the roving drummer at Spain matches, who cheerfully stirred up the crowd while paying no attention to the action. There may be greater concentration on events on the pitch when Barcelona visit the Bernabéu next week.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Spanish reputation

Spain captain Raul believes his country's reputation as a footballing power will be at stake when they play Slovakia in the first leg of a World Cup playoff on Saturday.

"We didn't perform at the expected level in qualification, we were inconsistent and it is our own fault that we are in the playoffs," said the Real Madrid striker.

"But we can't afford to slip up again. Our prestige is on the line and it would be a major disappointment if we didn't make it to Germany."

Spain, who last missed out on the finals when they were staged in West Germany in 1974, were forced to take the playoff route to the World Cup after finishing two points behind Serbia & Montenegro in Group Seven despite remaining unbeaten in their 10 qualifying matches.

The team's main problem was their inability to convert their domination of possession into goals, a weakness that meant they ended up drawing five of their qualifiers.

But with striker Fernando Torres ending his goal drought when he found the net five times in the team's final two qualifiers against Belgium and San Marino, Spain are confident that they will be able to live up to expectations.

"With the forwards we have we are bound to score," said Arsenal forward Jose Antonio Reyes. "Torres and Raul are both in form as are Fernando Morientes and David Villa if they play. I'm convinced we are going to score goals and win 3-0 or 4-0."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Spain forward Raúl González broke a league record for most appearances by a current Primera División player during Real Madrid CF's 1-0 win against Real Zaragoza on Sunday.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Victory gives Real Madrid the Top Position

A 2-0 win Saturday at lowly Betis ends Real Madrid's mini-crisis and puts them back on top of 'La Liga'.

The comfortable win leaves erratic Real with 18 points from 10 games, with six wins and four defeats.

Osasuna, Getafe, Barrcelona and Real Sociedad will all have the chance Sunday to overtake the 'Galacticos'.

Both teams were forced to field scratch teams in Seville, Real because of injuries and Betis because of suspensions.

Brazilian newcomer Robinho shot Real ahead in the 29th minute from outside the box. Compatriot Edu came close to equalizing for Betis after the restart, but his close-range header hit the post.

Substitute Alvaro Mejia made it 2-0 for Real 12 minutes from time with a clever header, his first-ever 'Liga' goal.

'Our attitude was much better today', said Real captain Raul Gonzalez. 'We were determined not to suffer a third-straight defeat.'

The latest defeat leaves hapless Betis fifth from bottom, with just two wins to their name.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Valencia next up for Real

After some tough times over the past two seasons, and still enduring their longest trophy-less streak for two decades, Real Madrid players and fans can now afford a smile of self-satisfaction.

The Spanish giants became league leaders last weekend after their fourth successive win, and their European campaign now is also back on track thanks to a thumping 4-1 win over Rosenborg in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Real's next hurdle will be to overcome the ever-competitive Valencia on Sunday, with the visitors currently lying fifth in the Spanish first division with just one loss to their name this season.

"Beating Valencia will be more difficult than beating Rosenborg. They are in good form at the moment," commented David Beckham on Thursday.

Real will have to beat the 2003-04 champions without either of the Brazilian strikers Ronaldo or Julio Baptista, who are both injured.

Ronaldo will be out for approximately a month after suffering a twisted left ankle during the 3-0 derby victory over Atletico last Saturday.

"The absence of Ronaldo is a relief because give him half a chance and he'll shine," said Valencia's Spanish international midfielder Vicente Rodriguez.

Julio Baptista will be on the sidelines for "between four and five weeks" according to Real medical staff on Thursday, after suffering a partial tear of a left knee ligament against Rosenborg.

The injuries to the Brazilian pair mean that club captain Raul Gonzalez and summer signing Robinho are likely to be the Real strike force against Valencia.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rooney gets Raul vote

The Real Madrid forward believes the United player can go as far as he wants

IN SEPTEMBER 1995, AN 18-YEAR-OLD BY the name of Raúl González scored a hat-trick for Real Madrid in only the third Champions League match of his career against Ferencvaros in a 6-1 win. Nine years later, an 18-year-old by the name of Wayne Rooney was scoring a hat-trick on his Manchester United and Champions League debut as they crushed Fenerbahçe 6-2. Even the opponents sound the same.
The mild-mannered Spaniard has far more in common with the assassin-faced Rooney than their different temperaments may suggest. Raúl knows all about being billed as your team’s and country’s saviour before you are old enough to hold a driving licence and three European Cup winner’s medals and a record-breaking 50 tournament goals later, he is backing Rooney to turn out fine for United and England.

“He is a fabulous player, a match-winner,” Raúl said. “What is impressive about him is that he has so much character and that is important because it spreads to other players in the team and transmits to the opposition. When a team plays against Rooney, they know they are playing against a side that is going to give absolutely everything.

“The only defect he has is his temperament. In some periods of certain games it can distract him and it prevents him from doing the most important thing, which is to play his football. But he is young and if he manages to calm himself down, he is going to be a very important player in the next World Cup for England. If he concentrates on playing his football on the pitch then he will go as far as he wants to because he has so much quality.”

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Fifty not out for Raul Gonzalez

Raul Gonzalez scored a record 50th goal in the Champions League, helping Real Madrid to a 2-1 victory over Greek club Olympiakos on Wednesday.

After midfielder Pantelis Kafes levelled for Olympiakos in the 48th on a 20-metre drive, substitute Roberto Soldado notched up the winner for Madrid on an 86th-minute header.

In another key result among eight second-rotation games on Wednesday, defending champion Liverpool drew 0-0 at Anfield against English champion Chelsea. Liverpool, which ousted Chelsea in last year's semifinals, faces Chelsea again on Sunday in a league match.

Among the winners were Italy's Inter Milan, Turkey's Fenerbahce, Spanish club Real Betis, French champion Lyon and Slovakia's Artmedia Bratislava.

In the Group F game in Madrid, Raul's goal moved him one ahead of Alfredo di Stefano and three ahead of Man United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy on the all-time scoring list for Europe's No. 1 cup.

The Spanish striker headed the ball behind Greek 'keeper Antonis Nikopolidis in the ninth minute, connecting on a long-range pass from David Beckham off the right wing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Spain's World Cup place hinges on a goal feast

Spain's hopes of avoiding a potentially awkward playoff to make the World Cup soccer finals in Germany next year depend on tonight's performances by Group Seven's top three teams: Serbia & Montenegro, Spain and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Luis Aragonés' team must win against San Marino (Antena 3, 8:30pm) to make sure of at least second place in the group. But to lead the standings, and therefore avoid a two-game playoff series against other possible group runners-up such as France, Russia or Turkey, Spain depends on Serbia & Montenegro losing at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina - the first time the two countries have played each other in Belgrade.

If Bosnia wins - assuming that Spain beats lowly San Marino -, Spain will win the group and automatic qualification. If there is a tie in the Serbian capital, Spain will have the same number of points as Serbia & Montenegro, and the goal difference will be used to decide the group winner. If Raúl González and company can win by a five-goal margin, a tie in the other match would be enough for Spain to top the group.

"I am confident about Bosnia because they have a chance of making the World Cup, and they will give it their all," said Spain's Iván de la Peña on arriving at Rimini in Italy on Tuesday.

The shaven-headed midfielder seemed set to be included in an unusually attack-minded formation from coach Aragonés. Arsenal's José Antonio Reyes and striker David Villa have been practicing with the first team alongside the usual forward pairing of Raúl and Fernando Torres. After starting nine qualifying matches with both Joaquín Sánchez and Vicente Rodríguez on the team, Aragonés has finally decided to discard the two wingers and opt for the more versatile duo of Reyes and De la Peña behind the strikers.

The obvious reasons are Spain's urgent need for goals and San Marino's knack for allowing goals, 34 in nine matches, including five scored by Spain in Almería earlier this year. Villa is now the Spanish league's top scorer with six goals, while Reyes turned Spain's game against Belgium last Saturday. He was sent on as a second-half substitute and promptly assisted Torres' two goals to give Spain the 2-0 win.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Real defeats Alaves 3-0

Raul Gonzalez Blanco helped Real Madrid beat Alaves by 3:0 on Sunday.
Real started the match in seventh place in the standings, following two wins and two defeats.
Real started the game like a team under pressure and Alaves were first to carve out a few goal scoring opportunities.
Real striker Ronaldo produced a terrible pass towards his own goal which was intercepted by Rodolfo Bodipo.
Unfortunately for Alaves, the striker shot wide when through on goal with just Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas to beat.
Real eventually started to threaten the Alaves goal and Julio Baptista latched onto a loose ball just outside the penalty area and fired a shot that Alaves goalkeeper Franco Costanzo did well to push wide.
Real continued to press for the opening goal and, after captain Raul was brought down, David Beckham curled a free-kick that Costanzo punched away from just under the crossbar.
After the teams turned with the match still goalless, Real took the lead 15 minutes into the second half.
The Alaves defence failed to deal with Raul's long pass and the loose ball fell to Ronaldo who thumped a powerful shot past Costanzo from just outside the penalty area.
It was a stunning goal, which seemed to lift Real after they had struggled to break down a stubborn Alaves outfit.
Ronaldo should have had a second minutes later, but after Robert Carlos's pass found him in the penalty area, his shot bounced back off the post.
The Brazilian did eventually grab his second goal of the game.
Beckham picked up the ball in midfield and threaded a well-weighted pass to Ronaldo, who rounded Costanzo and slipped the ball into the empty net.
The seal was put on a convincing victory when midfielder Guti scored the game's third goal just before the final whistle.
Ronaldo was involved again.
He tried to set up substitute Robinho, who had been rested for Wednesday's Champions League game against Olympiakos.
Robinho's shot was blocked and the rebound fell to Guti, who gratefully accepted the opportunity.
The 3-0 victory saw Real climb from seventh into provisional second place on goal difference.
Alaves remained bottom of the table with two points from five games.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Raul leads Madrid to defeat At. Bilbao

A quick-fire double from captain Raul and a well-taken header by new signing Robinho allowed 10-man Real Madrid to fight back from a goal down to claim a 3-1 win at home to Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.

Real looked to be heading for a fourth defeat in a row when England defender Jonathan Woodgate, playing his first competitive match since joining Real more than a year ago, sent a diving header into his own net in the 25th minute.

Vanderlei Luxemburgo's side struggled to respond to the setback and it was not until the start of the second half that they sparked into life.

Real broke through when Brazilian striker Robinho got in front of a forest of players to head home a David Beckham free kick eight minutes after the break.

Robinho's fellow Brazilian Ronaldo then set up Raul for his first goal when he burst his way through the Bilbao defense before unselfishly laying the ball off for his skipper to score at the far post.

Raul made certain of the win in the 69th minute, meeting a Beckham corner with an expert glancing header that spun over the keeper and into the net.

The unfortunate Woodgate was sent off in the 66th minute for picking up a second booking for a foul on Bilbao forward Joseba Etxeberria.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Spain steady in the Top Ten FIFA Ranking

Spain remains in the first ten positions of FIFA World Ranking for another month. At the same time, african temas improve their positions in this listing. Cameroon moved up six places in the FIFA world ranking to the 22nd place, and displaced Egypt to become the top team in the African continent for the month of September.

Tunisia also leap-froged eight places to clinch the second slot. Nigeria, with her fate in the hands of Rwanda in Kigali on October 9, moved up only a place (29) but still retained the third spot in the continent. Egypt slipped five places (31) and also slumped from the top of Africa to
the fourth place.

Nigeria's opponents in the 2006 World Cup qualifier, Zimbabwe moved up two places to (42 ) and eighth place in Africa. Although the FIFA ranking hardly has any meaningful effect on the
performance of teams, it is generally believed that it is used by countries as a barometer in gauging their progress in the round leather game. Months before the Super Eagles made their debut at the USA' 94 World Cup, Nigeria was ranked the fifth best team in the world. The Stephen Keshi-led team did not disappoint with its overall performance in that first time
outing amongst some of the best teams in the world.

In the overall world rankings, Brazil maintained her grip on the World with the Netherlands, Argentina , Czech and Mexico following in that order. France, USA, Spain, Portugal and Sweden made up the teams in the top 10 bracket of world football.

Surprisingly, power houses in European soccer, England (11), Italy (13), Germany (15) and Greece (20) could not make the top 10 of world football. Sven-Goran Eriksson's side fell four places to 11th after losing 4-1 in a friendly to Denmark and 1-0 in a World Cup qualifying tie in Northern Ireland.

The result lifts Lawrie Sanchez's side 15 places to 101st, while the Republic of Ireland are down seven to 21st. Scotland are up 12 to 74th after taking four World Cup points from two games, and Wales move up one place to 82nd.

Brazil keep their top spot but Holland have jumped over Argentina in second place after World Cup qualifying wins over Armenia and Andorra. Denmark (up four to 14th), Poland (up five to 17th).

Monday, September 19, 2005

Raul Gonzalez Bio

Raúl González Blanco, usually referred to simply as Raúl, was born in June 27, 1977 in Madrid. This spanish suoer striker has been playing for Real Madrid at senior level since 1994. He currently is the captain of both Real and the Spanish national team, being its all-time leading scorer. In both he wears jersey number 7.

Since making his debut against the Czech Republic in October 1996, Raúl's performances for Spain have very much mirrored the nation's fortunes.

Raúl was a key player in Real Madrid's last six big titles, three European Championships (1998, 2000 and 2002) and three National Championships (1999, 2001 and 2003). After Fernando Hierro retired from the Spanish national team in 2002, Raúl became the captain for Real Madrid and Spain.

Ever since, he has been under heavy criticism by the media and part of the supporters because of his poor performances in the last two years, in which Real Madrid struggled to win a title in Spain and in European Championships, with no success in either of them.

Raúl is a supremely intelligent striker who is able to link attack and midfield effectively. Although not as talented as other stars in his team, like Ronaldo or Zidane, he usually outperforms them by his strong character and redoubled efforts in the pitch, and by his unbreakable resolve to win every game.

For his country, Raúl scored 41 goals in 83 international matches (as of May 2005). He played in the 1998 World Cup, Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup, and Euro 2004. He is also the leading scorer in the UEFA Champions League, with 49 goals in 95 matches (as of May 2005). Raúl is also currently 11th highest goalscorer in the history of Spain's top flight, with 175 goals in 382 games. All of these goals were for Real Madrid, making Raúl the club's third highest goalscorer of all time. This will surely improve as Raúl is still playing for the club.

Raúl possesses one of the distinctive celebrations in the modern game, with each goal acclaimed by a kiss of his wedding ring, an acknowledgement to his wife Mamen Sanz. They have two sons.