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   June 17, 2002 | 1250 IST


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Spain stronger after Irish nightmare

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Kevin Fylan

Spain always believed they had the talent to win the World Cup, but after surviving a nightmare 30 minutes of extra-time to beat Ireland on penalties they are now convinced they have the temperament as well.

Spain were leading through an early Fernando Morientes header on Sunday but were rocked when Robbie Keane scored a penalty in the dying seconds to send the second round match into extra-time.

With David Albelda unable to continue because of injury and all their substitutes used, Spain had to play with only 10 men throughout the extra period.

As a consequence they barely ventured over the halfway line, concentrating instead on taking the game to penalties.

After a couple of close shaves they managed just that and with goalkeeper Iker Casillas proving the hero they won the shoot-out 3-2.

"The team have now shown that we know how to suffer," said Raul, who was forced out of the match in the second half of normal time with a groin problem that makes him a doubt for Saturday's quarter-final against Italy or South Korea.

Fernando Morientes"We played well, particularly in the first half, and we had chances to score a second. We had to get through some bad moments towards the end but we managed it and showed the strength there is in this squad."

Spain were under pressure throughout the 30 minutes of extra-time but Ireland created few chances and Fernando Hierro, who gave away the penalty for pulling striker Niall Quinn's shirt, believes his side showed their maturity in that period.

"Mentally we were very strong," Hierro said. "This is a mature team.

"We did have to suffer in extra-time because they continued to play a long ball game. Maybe that was a mistake on their part, though, because we dealt with that threat very well.

"This victory will give a real boost to our morale. It will make us stronger."

Spain will hobble on towards their quarter-final in Kwangju with three players on the injured list.

While Raul has a decent chance of making it, Albelda is definitely out after suffering an injury to his testicles. He was sent to hospital in Seoul for a scan after the match before returning to the squad's training base in Ulsan.

Luis Enrique may also struggle to be fit after playing much of the extra time period with a leg muscle strain.

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