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   June 19, 2002 | 1420 IST


Umit Davala
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Camacho closes in on first title

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Spain's World Cup coach Jose Antonio Camacho, who came into the job without a major title to his name, is now just three matches away from landing the biggest prize of them all.

The 47-year-old has never been renowned for his tactical nous and he has had to put up with criticism about what appeared to be questionable substitutions in the side's penalty shootout win over Ireland in the last round.

What he does possess is an infectious enthusiasm for the game as well as a patriotic streak so blatant he is repeatedly held up for ridicule on TV because of it.

Those may just be the qualities Spain need to take them past the indefatigable South Koreans when they meet in their quarter-final in Kwangju on Saturday.

"Look, I'd love to win every game 5-0 but there's another team out there on the pitch as well, you know," Camacho said when confronted by questions about the side's tactics in the Ireland game.

"We got through to the quarter-finals with that performance and I'd do exactly the same again if I had to.

"God help us if we actually lose a match."

Camacho took over the Spanish national team in 1998, replacing Javier Clemente after a first round exit at the World Cup in France and 3-2 defeat to Cyprus in the side's first qualifying game for the European Championship finals.

His main qualification seemed to be the fact that he was ready and willing to take it, after the respected Luis Aragones had turned the Spanish federation down.


As a player, Camacho won nine league titles and two UEFA Cups as an uncompromising left-back at Real Madrid but his coaching record before taking over the national team was modest to say the least.

After a spell working with the youth team and later as assistant coach at Real Madrid he moved the short distance across the capital to take over at Rayo Vallecano.

There, he guided the side to promotion from the second division before moving on to Espanyol in Barcelona and repeating the trick, taking them up in 1994.

He then took charge at Sevilla for a season before moving back to Espanyol and then on to his dream job as head coach at Real Madrid.

Camacho lasted just 22 days of the pre-season at Real, walking out after a row with then president Lorenzo Sanz.

Shortly afterwards, the offer to replace Clemente came in and Camacho found himself with the plum job in Spanish football.

He immediately inspired an improvement and the team went on to qualify for Euro 2000 in style, winning all their remaining games.

Up to that time Camacho's relationship with the media had been sweetness and light but defeat to Norway in their first game signalled a definitive end to the honeymoon period.

Shortly after the squad's arrival in South Korea he lost his temper with reporters following the team, accusing them of looking for trouble and making fatuous criticism of his tactics.


In an attempt at detente, he invited the media into the team hotel for an insight into how the World Cup campaign would be plotted.

Most of those present were impressed by the coach's attention to detail as he gave a demonstration of how Spain's formation would work during the competition

While opinions may have changed about Camacho's grasp of tactics, there remains something of a scattergun approach to his selection policy, though.

Since taking over the national team he has given international debuts to 50 players and while in South Korea he has brushed aside any questions about his line-up.

"It's not important to me who plays in the team," Camacho said as Spain prepared for their second round game against Ireland. "The important thing is how the ones who are in the team play."

What Camacho wants to see is a team playing in his own likeness and image, with dogged determination and unflinching commitment to the cause.

Whether that will be enough to win the World Cup remains to be seen.

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