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Spain Has Talent but Has Hard Time Holding Lead - 2002-04-29

Spain has now qualified for seven straight World Cup football finals. But during that span, it has reached the quarterfinals just twice. The Spaniards will try again to live up to higher expectations.

Spain swept through Europe qualifying for the World Cup in South Korea and Japan with six wins and two draws and a goal differential of plus-17.

The Spanish team has loads of talent, with Raul Gonzalez and Fernando Morientes, the Real Madrid strikers considered one of the most formidable attacking tandems in the world. Another player to watch is midfielder Gaizko Mendieta, who moved from Valencia to the Italian club Lazio for this season, but it has not been the smoothest of transitions.

Spain plays its first round World Cup games in South Korea, and is in Group B with Paraguay, South Africa and newcomer Slovenia. International football commentator Derek Rae says Spain should not have a problem reaching at least the second round.

"The one thing in Spain's favor is that the group, on paper, is not particularly taxing. I would expect that they would be in the round of 16, but after that, who knows? If Spain really turns it on, if they can play to their potential, then they have a chance of going far. But, I think, rather fancy, that the reality is that it'll be more of the same for Spain, and they might get dumped out of the tournament earlier than should be the case."

Coach Jose Antonio Camacho says his side has two basic problems: vulnerability to set pieces and an inability to hold onto a lead. If these problems are not solved, expect Spain to once again disappoint its football fans.