Aragones blessed with a wealth of talent

KAMEN: Facing Spain without a strategy is like running with the bulls blindfolded.

Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre knows tactics are essential to avoid suffering a similar 4-0 pummelling that Spain handed Ukraine in the World Cup Group H opener.

His plan: ``to know what we are going to do and above all, to go out and do it.''

The biggest worry the former France coach has is how to stop Spain's midfield from one-touching its way through the Tunisian defence in Monday night's game in Stuttgart.

An early goal by the Spanish and the Tunisian keeper Ali Boumnijel could see several more coming his way. But if the Tunisians withstand the initial surge from strikers Fernando Torres and David Villa, Tunisia's confidence could grow as Spain's dissipate.

``We know we have to be strong, physically and technically, and win a lot of one-on-ones against this team,'' Tunisia midfielder Adel Chedli said. ``If we let them play, we're dead.''


The Spaniards look harmonious and focused in the greenery at their Westphalian training camp. Players praise the camaraderie coach Luis Aragones has instilled in a squad historically splintered in Catalan, Basque and Castilian factions.

Even worse for Lemerre, the Spaniards refuse to consider themselves up as World Cup favourites, as much of their nation does after the scoring orgy against Ukraine.

``We have to keep our feet on the ground more than ever and face the match against Tunisia as if it were a final,'' defender Carlos Marchena said.

Aragones insists Tunisia, the first African nation to win a World Cup match when it beat Mexico 3-1 in 1978, will be a more difficult opponent to overcome than Ukraine.

``Above all, they have an extraordinary midfield and two forwards who move very well,'' the 67-year-old said. ``They play a more technical football but maybe slower, and that is good for us.''

Still, when perennial power faces minnow, there is always the risk the favourite takes the outcome for granted.

Bad memories

If the North Africans get the first goal, Spain's memory of World Cup disappointment could resurface. Eleven tries and no final is a bitter record for a country that counts itself among the great soccer nations.

The Ukraine match Spain's best ever World Cup opener fed hopes that 2006 is the year ``La Furia Roja'' (the Red Fury) finally delivers.

Against Tunisia, which is playing its fourth World Cup, Spain will seek to prove that its near-perfect debut wasn't a fluke.

Three points would see the Spaniards through to the second round, while the Tunisians will be content with a draw to maintain a good chance of advancing.

``There will be changes, but in homeopathic doses,'' Lemerre said about his lineup. ``I have the feeling that we have the ability.''

No tinkering

Unlike Lemerre, Aragones is blessed with a wealth of talent that allows him to keep Spain's all-time top scorer Raul Gonzalez on the bench. But he's unlikely to tinker with the 4-3-3 lineup he fielded against Ukraine. AP

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