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.


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