Beware... the Spanish armada cometh!
HindustanTimes.com acquaints you with final Group favourite for WC 2006.FIFA Rewind : Switzerland, 1954 WC | Picturesindia Updated: Jun 08, 2006 11:00 IST
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SPAIN - Odds 14/1
Group G> Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia
Qualification> Runners-up of Europe Group 7
World Cup wins> None
One look at Group H and one is almost fooled into believing that Spain would go through to the second round, unquestioned and unchallenged.
But, a second look warrants for a closer scrutiny.
|Spain - 5th|
|Tunisia - 21st|
|Ukraine - 45th|
|Saudi Arabia - 34th|
Ukraine - a newcomer with superstar Andriy Shevchenko, Tunisia - strongest of the African lot, and Saudi Arabia - Asian Champions - will aim to spoil its party. These teams, especially Ukraine, are feared for creating upsets when the opposition is not looking.
Moreover, Spain is known to have cold feet when blooded at the big stage and one just needs to flip the pages of football history to relive its World Cup debacles. Last time, it was embarrassed by South Korea in a contentious penalty shoot-out elimination.
This time, it needs to play to its strength to tackle these dark horses and make sure there's not another humiliation.
One of its biggest asset is the star-studded line-up and the availability of experience at the bench. This is where other teams falter and Spain can potentially score.
Real Madrid striker Raul is Spain's most capped outfield player, all-time leading scorer and the team's talisman. At the age of 28, the 2006 World Cup could be the perfect setting for him to 'shock-and-awe' the world.
Even though injuries had riddled the side, conking off the team's preparations for over a year, yet, with most of its players honing their skills at La Liga, there's just no way Spain can possibly squander this golden oppurtunity.
Brazil, Argentina, England, beware ... the Spanish armada cometh!
Who to watch: Atletico Madrid's Fernando Torres was joint fourth-highest scorer in the European qualifying zone, with seven goals. The 21-year-old's form has reportedly caught the eye of Chelsea and Arsenal among others.
Who's missing:Asier Del Horno. His combative tackling and aerial power at left-back will sorely be missed. Argentinian-born defender Mariano Pernia has replaced him for World Cup.
Spain has only played twice against Ukraine, winning one and drawing the other. It will fancy its chances against the inexperienced team.
Mark your date: Spain v Ukraine, June 14, 1830 IST
Spain and Tunisia have not clashed with each other in a World Cup game or a friendly as yet. This would be the first time African minnows will take on Spain.
Mark your date: Spain v Tunisia, June 20, 0030 IST
Saudi Arabia is the weakest link of Group H and would most probably be steam-rolled by Spain.
Mark your date: Spain v Saudi Arabia, June 23, 1930 IST