Fri, Jun 09, 2006 - Page 23 News List

World Cup: Luis Aragones very confident Spain will improve Cup record

AP , MADRID

Spain coach Luis Aragones said his team's midfield skills are superior to the other top sides in the World Cup.

"Spain, above even Brazil, has the best touch in midfield, both in retaining possession and in accuracy. We know how to play the ball even when you least expect it," Aragones told El Pais on Wednesday.

The veteran coach said his team's talent made him hopeful of improving on its poor World Cup record. Despite its reputation as one of the world's best soccer leagues, Spain's best placing was fourth in 1950.

"Historically, we have won nothing but it's down to me to think and dream that we're going to win," Aragones said.

`Keep the faith'

Aragones urged his players to keep faith in their strong, skillful approach play.

"If we play with the idea of booting the ball upfield and hoping to score from rebounds, then we're dead," he said.

The veteran coach has led Spain to 21 unbeaten matches since taking charge after the team flopped in the European championships held in Portugal two years ago.

While Aragones maintained "80 days a year at most" with the national team weren't enough for sustained improvement, he said he has managed to tighten the team's defense.

"We're more sure at the back, in 20 games we haven't conceded many goals," he said.

"It's easier to improve in defense. We must improve in attack. Making offensive movements automatic is harder," he added.

`Spain superior'

Aragones praised Ukraine, his team's opening opponent in the tournament, but concluded that Spain is superior.

"Ukraine, even without [Andriy] Shevchenko, has a great side, it's strong physically and fast," Aragones said. "Are we better? Yes."

Of Spain's other two group rivals, Aragones said Tunisia would be harder to play than Saudi Arabia.

"Tunisia has four top-quality midfielders ... we're going to need God's help and more," he said. "Arabia, because it plays a slower game, will suit us better."

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