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   June 7, 2002 | 2015 IST



France get the blues

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Spain eye long World Cup run

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Spain's crisis-free progress into the World Cup second round has come via a newly acquired ruthless streak that could make their 11th appearance in the tournament finals their most successful.

There is still much for Jose Antonio Camacho's side to improve on from 3-1 victories over Slovenia and Paraguay, group B games that posed them far more problems than the scorelines might suggest.

The contrast with their ramshackle campaign in France four years ago, when a goalless draw with Paraguay contributed to a first-round exit, could not be more stark, though.

There is a resourcefulness about their game this time, as well as a voracious appetite for goals that is starting to suggest that anything is possible for a side that all too often struggle to turn superiority into goals.

Carles Puyol, who scored the own goal that gave the South Americans their 1-0 lead 10 minutes into Friday's game, believes the side's ability to turn half-chances into goals could be the key this year.

"We have the desire to do well but by itself that's not enough," Puyol said after a second-half double from Fernando Morientes and a late Fernando Hierro penalty made it six points out of six for Spain.

"What changed the game was that in the second half, at those fundamental moments, we managed to take the chances that came our way."


Spain played pretty badly in the first half but their game was revitalised by Morientes, who powered in a header from Javi de Pedro's corner for the equaliser on 53 minutes.

The second from Morientes came as he took advantage of a mistake from Jose Luis Chilavert, who failed to reach another De Pedro cross and allowed the big Spanish striker to bundle in from close range.

Raul's ability to upset opposition defences brought the third for Spain, as his attempt to turn in the box provoked a foul that gave Hierro the chance to score from the spot for the second match in succession.

Camacho had been expected to field Morientes from the start, after a disappointing display from Diego Tristan in the first game against Slovenia.

Tristan was once again ineffective in the first half against Paraguay but Camacho had the satisfaction of his two changes turning the match at halftime.

Morientes, finally on for Tristan, made the most obvious contribution but the introduction of Ivan Helguera to beef up the midfield was significant, too, as he gave the Spanish a security they had been lacking early on.

"We were 1-0 down at halftime and it could have been 2-0," Camacho admitted.

"We needed to change something and Helguera, playing in front of the defence, provided the solution.

"As for Morientes, he could be in the starting line-up in future games. We're expecting to play a lot more at this World Cup."

Spain's best World Cup performance was when they came fourth in 1950, which was incidentally the last time they won their first two matches at the tournament finals.

Camacho could well be right about there being a lot more games to come.

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