Spain prepare for Euro 2004

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Valencia midfielder Ruben Baraja believes that Spain could be the surprise package of this summers Euro 2004.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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Las Rozas:

Valencia midfielder Ruben Baraja believes that Spain could be the surprise package of this summers Euro 2004 in Portugal after their failure to qualify for the tournament with their usual ease. "In my opinion this is one of the most well balanced and skilful Spanish teams of recent years and we have got a great chance,” he said. Spain have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts qualification phase, forcing Inaki Saezs team to go through a playoff against Norway in order to book their place in the tournament. Spain have traditionally cruised through the qualification phases for major championships and then failed to live up to their billing once the tournaments have begun. Their only triumph at the European championship was 40 years ago in 1964, although they also reached the final 20 years later in 1984. Baraja, who played a key role in Valencia's triumphs in both the Primera Liga and the UEFA Cup this season, pointed to his sides final group match against Portugal as the sides toughest challenge. Braja also thinks that hosts Portugal are one of the favourites. "Portugal have to be one of the favourites as they are playing at home and be boosted by the support of all the fans", he said. But the 28-year-old Valencia midfielder was anxious not to underestimate Russia, who Spain face in their opening match on June 12. "Russia deserve our full respect", he said. "They may not have the name that Portugal have but the fact that they have qualified for the tournament makes them one of the best 16 sides in Europe". The squad will spend a week preparing for the tournament in Las Rozas before playing a final warm-up match against Andorra in Getafe on June 5. They will leave for Portugal on June 6, setting up their base close to the northern town of Braga, and play Russia in their opening match in Group A on June 12. (AP)

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