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Rediff.com  » Sports » Tunisia fright gives Spain wake-up call

Tunisia fright gives Spain wake-up call

June 20, 2006 12:24 IST
Whisper it quietly but this could just be the wake-up call Spain needed.

A nation used to World Cup disappointment in large doses will now start to believe after a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Tunisia on Monday sent Luis Aragones's side into the last 16.

While they barely broke sweat in dismantling Ukraine 4-0 in their Group H opener, Spain needed age-old attributes of hard graft and patience to wear down the north Africans before purring into top gear with three goals in the last 19 minutes.

Frustrated for long periods, it took a halftime substitution by Aragones to wave off the threat of a shock defeat at the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion.

On came all-time leading striker Raul, not quite the forgotten man but with his star waning after an injury-hit season, and teenager Cesc Fabregas.

The midfielder provided the tools to break down a defensive brick wall expertly marshalled by Radhi Jaidi. He played a key role in Raul's goal to haul the Spaniards level and then slid a perfect pass to Fernando Torres for the second.

PREDATORY SKILLS

Raul also showed he had lost none of his predatory skills, netting his 44th international goal and giving Aragones a selection poser for the rest of the tournament.

The golden boy of Spanish football has had to start from the bench in both games with David Villa and Torres, top scorer at this tournament with three goals, the preferred pair up front.

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Spain, who have not got past the last eight since 1950, will now have one eye on a second round meeting with France, South Korea or Switzerland should they go on and top their group, a good bet with Saudi Arabia as their final opponents.

With seven goals, and the promise of more against the hapless Saudis, Aragones must turn his attention to the defence.

The Tunisians, buoyed by Joahar Mnari's eighth-minute goal, gave the Spanish rearguard too many troublesome moments for Aragones's liking with left back Mariano Pernia enduring a torrid first half against lively right wing back Hatem Trabelsi.

Trabelsi's pace and mazy dribbling forced Carles Puyol into a rash challenge and a booking while keeper Iker Casillas came to the rescue from one defence-splitting pass.

For 71 minutes Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre must have been dreaming of victory and his side could yet rue a below-par performance in a 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia.

The Carthage Eagles can still qualify if they beat Ukraine on Friday and may yet be boosted by the return of striker Francileudo Dos Santos, battling to overcome a shin injury that has kept him out of the tournament to date.

Justin Palmer
Source:
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