Raul's performance in Spain's 1-1 draw with Greece on Wednesday showed why the undoubted promise of one of the game's most talented attacking sides is likely to be unfulfilled once again at Euro 2004.
Raul's form has been crucial to Spain since he established himself in the side in 1996. At the age of 26, he is his country's all-time leading scorer with 38 goals and has become an inspirational captain.
His form over the past year for Real Madrid has been in sharp decline, however, and until he regains his nose for goal Spain are going to have serious problems, with their fate in Group A still to be resolved in a final showdown with Portugal.
Raul looked embarrassed when he received the man of the match award for his performance against Greece.
"It is a bit of a surprise, yes," he said. "It's nice to get the award but this was a team performance. We played a great game but we couldn't finish them off."
Raul showed by the goal he set up for Fernando Morientes that he retains his shrewdness and sharpness around the box.
It was just like old times when he stole in to intercept an ill-advised back pass from Michalis Kapsis in the 28th minute, controlled the ball with one deft touch and set up his old Real team mate Fernando Morientes for an emphatic finish.
Raulcontinued to worry the Greek defence with his tireless running between midfield and the penalty area but for all his darting and dashing he never looked like scoring.
The defining moment of his performance came in the 54thminute when Joaquin beat two players on the right and sent in a perfectly judged cross that found him unmarked, six metres out.
Itwas the sort of chance Raul used to take effortlessly but he mistimed his jump and headed woefully over the bar.
Spain coach Inaki Saez brought on Fernando Torres to replace Raul with 10minutes to go but he rejected any suggestion that the form of his captain had cost Spain a win.
"Inany match you miss chances," Saez said. "To say that one particular lost opportunity was decisive is just trivial."
Saezwas right that Raul was not the only culprit.
Thefirst half was short on clear chances but Joaquin consistently beat his marker down the right flank after coming on in the second half and sent in countless crosses for a Spanish forward line that went absent without leave.
Asit is, Spain find themselves level with Greece on four points from two games and needing to take something from their final game against Portugal to go through.
"Ingeneral, we weren't decisive enough in front of goal," said Saez when summing up the game.
Itis a problem that is all too obvious to spot and unless Raul can quickly rediscover his scoring touch, it is one that will see Spain taking their customary early flight home.