Spain coach Saez opts for a defensive Euro 2004 squad

Spain coach Saez opts for a defensive Euro 2004 squad

The Star
Friday May 21, 2004

MADRID: Spain coach Inaki Saez opted for a conservative Euro 2004 squad,
naming eight defenders and leaving out Arsenal striker Jose Antonio Reyes

Experienced players from Real Madrid and champions Valencia made up the
backbone of the 23-man squad which will play hosts Portugal, Greece and
Russia in Group A.

The coach said 20-year-old Reyes, who has won four caps and scored two goals
for Spain in the Euro qualifier against Armenia in October, had not yet
reached maturity.

“Reyes is a man of the future for the national side,” Saez said.

As well as Reyes, Saez left out Valencia attacker Mista, the highest-scoring
Spaniard in this year’s Primera Liga with 19 goals. Mista’s stunning form
helped his side seal a league and UEFA Cup double this season.

“My experience of international tournaments is that central defenders always
receive the most punishment, and in the final – which is what we aim to
reach – you are always short of defenders,” Saez said.

“So I have put another man in at the back.”

Saez named Raul despite the Spanish captain’s poor season with Real Madrid.
Fellow striker Fernando Morientes of Monaco also won a place after a
brilliant Champions League campaign.

Saez opted for versatile Barcelona defender Gabri to plug any holes in the
Spanish defence, saying he was familiar with the player from coaching the
Spanish youth team who won the 1999 World Cup in Nigeria.

Defensive stalwarts Ivan Helguera and Michel Salgado of Real Madrid, and
Carles Puyol of Barcelona are included and Betis’ Juanito won a place
despite his side’s indifferent league form.

Spain, who have not lost in nine internationals, will rely on first choice
goalkeeper Iker Casillas of Real Madrid.

Athletic Bilbao’s 24-year-old goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia was named in the
squad for the first time.


Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Santiago Canizares (Valencia),
Daniel Aranzubia (Athletic Bilbao).

Defenders: Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Ivan Helguera (Real Madrid), Carlos
Marchena (Valencia), Michel Salgado (Real Madrid), Gabri (Barcelona), Raul
Bravo (Real Madrid), Cesar (Deportivo Coruna), Juanito (Betis).

Midfielders: Juan Carlos Valeron (Deportivo Coruna), Xabi Alonso (Real
Sociedad), Ruben Baraja (Valencia), Vicente (Valencia), David Albelda
(Valencia), Joaquin (Real Betis), Xavi (Barcelona).

Forwards: Raul (Real Madrid), Albert Luque (Deportivo Coruna), Fernando
Torres (Atletico Madrid), Fernando Morientes (Monaco), Joseba Etxeberria
(Athletic Bilbao). – Reuters