Preview: Spain v Ukraine

Chronic underachievers Spain begin yet another tournament in which they attempt to shake off their unwanted tag when they meet debutants Ukraine on Wednesday in Leipzig.

    Will the Spanish finally produce the goods?

    The Spaniards have had a monkey on their back for 56 years as they have constantly failed to make the semi finals after finishing fourth in the 1950 World Cup.

    However, the tired, old record has been dusted off and played again as we inevitably hear that Spain are again a team to watch. Boring!

    At least they made the effort of getting someone new to give the old line a fresh image.

    "I believe we have one of the best technical teams in the world and we know it. I think we can do something here in Germany," said Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who will be making his World Cup debut after an impressive domestic season.

    Fabregas focused

    It is easy to be seduced by the Spanish. They have an excellent domestic league, some of the most exciting prospects in the game in their side, and a good run of recent form.

    Perhaps the only thing stopping people from getting carried away with their prospects is the fact that they are Spain.

    Injuries have cast a cloud over the match with opposing strikers Raul and Ukraine’s Andriy Shevchenko both in doubt.

    Spain’s record scorer with 43 goals has had a severely disrupted preparation for the World Cup with a three month lay-off due to a cruciate ligament injury.

    He left training early this week after picking up a thigh injury, although the Real Madrid player remained upbeat about making the side for the Group H opener.

    "It was just a couple of knocks," said the 28-year-old.

    The white Ronaldo

    Ukrainian star Shevchenko was less optimistic when quizzed on the prospect of leading the line for his side in the debut.

    "I do not know if I will be 100 percent against Spain," said the new Chelsea player.

    Shevchenko: goal machine

    Should the 2004 European footballer of the year be fit for the match, the former Soviet republic will have their ideal partnership leading them on and off the field.

    Coach Oleg Blokhin is a legend in Ukrainian football.

    Named European Footballer of the Year in 1975, the former striker won seven Soviet league titles with Dynamo Kiev during the 1970s and 80s.

    The most capped player for the USSR with 112 appearances, he also scored 42 times for the federation.

    The squad lends heavily from domestic juggernaut Dynamo Kiev and should 'Sheva' make the game, it should be something of a homecoming for the former Kiev striker.

    Both European sides will fancy their chances against fellow Group H opponents Saudi Arabia and Tunisia so a victory in this match will boost their chances of topping the group no end.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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