Will Spain come out of its World Cup jinx?

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Updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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For a country that has one of the best football leagues in the world and clubs as famous as Real Madrid and Barcelona, Spain's performance in the World Cup has been the biggest mystery. They have stars this time as well but none bigger than Raul. He burst into the Real Madrid team when he was only 17 and for the last seven years has terrorized defenses and goalkeepers with his magical dribbling skills and precise shots. But there's new blood as well. One of the up and coming stars is striker Diego Tristan. The Deportivo La Coruna player ended as the top scorer in the Primera Liga with 21 goals. And then there is also mid-fielder Gaizka Mendieta who was part of the Valencia team that finished runners up twice in the Champions league. The heart of the Spanish defense could be the heart of their problems. Fernando Hierro is getting old and although his positioning is still stellar, he is not the player he once was. But with 21-year-old Iker Cassilas in goal, there is some redeeming factor. The young Real Madrid keeper played a huge part in the Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen. So why such a poor showing despite so much of star quality? Spain has now qualified for 11 of the 17 World Cups. It has played a total of 40 matches, winning just 16, drawing 10 and losing 14. Its best finish was a fourth place in 1950. In 1998, they lost to Nigeria in the first round. And that wasn't the only time they made an early exit. They have failed to get past the first round four times. Spain has the ingredients, but now they have to try and cook up the right meal for Spanish fans to enjoy.

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