The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Spain promise a different story
On Target

Shyam Thapa

Spain, the perennial under-achievers, on Wednesday made a strong statement when they opened their World Cup campaign with a 4-0 thrashing of Ukraine who played with 10 men for almost the entire second session. Two goals from David Villa ' including one from the first penalty of the meet, a Xabi Alonso header and a pile-driver from Fernando Torres were all part of a sparkling display from the Spanish side and helped them get off to their best ever start in World Cup finals.

Since they made the semi-finals of the 1950 finals in Brazil, it has always been a saga of disappointment for Spain.

It has remained a mystery, since Spain host the world’s most competitive league with the game’s biggest names like Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Zidane and Beckham showing off their skills in a gripping atmosphere. But the presence of these foreign stars also means that the quality homegrown talents have to live under the foreigners’ shadow and miss out regular exposure.

Indian football faces a similar problem. Each Indian club depends too much on foreign recruits, the consequence being that the sons of the soil recede to the background. East Bengal or Mohun Bagan, with the musclepower of their foreign players, can beat the national side, but does it really help the cause of Indian football'

Back to Spain. This Spanish side promises a different story and should reach the semi-finals. While all the players have experience of representing top European clubs, coach Luis Aragones can take heart from the fact that there are no stars like Ronaldinho or Beckham, and therefore, dealing with the players and motivating them becomes easy.

The central defenders have a world of experience ' Puyol is the Barcelona captain while Sergio Ramos represents Real Madrid. The midfield is always on the move and capable of orchestrating constructive moves. The forwardline is a good blend of youth (Villa, Torres) and experience (Raul).

Unlike the other first-timers, Ukraine played open football. They don’t get too many chances of playing against top-notch teams, and that showed. A large part of their qualification process involved duels against less competitive teams like Kazakhstan, Georgia and Albania.

Early goals in both sessions did Ukraine in. Despite trailing by two goals, they started on a positive note after half-time. But again their plans went awry when Vashchyuk was harshly shown the red card. The Ukrainian ’keeper managed to get his hand to the ball, but it was not enough to stop Villa’s spot-kick.

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