Time to forget our past failures, insists Aragones

May 22, 2006

MADRID, May 22 (Reuters) - Coach Luis Aragones says it is time for Spain to stop making excuses for past disappointments at the World Cup and produce the goods at next month's tournament in Germany.

'We've got to banish the excuse mentality,' Aragones told sports daily AS on Monday. 'I've never liked alibis that don't justify anything.

'We have to take go into every game convinced that we can win and if that doesn't happen, then off we go home.'

Spain have not got beyond the World Cup quarter-finals since 1950 and were disappointing in qualifying for Germany.

However, Aragones believes that their emphatic 6-2 aggregate win over Slovakia in the playoffs has served as a turning point.

'That game helped us change and allowed us to start dreaming about what we could achieve,' he said. 'After that game, the team, players and the fans rediscovered their enthusiasm.'

The 67-year-old said he had complete faith in his players, but added that they would need to take a humble approach to the tournament if they were to achieve anything in Germany.

'I have 23 good reasons to believe in this team and in Spanish football,' he said. 'But we have to keep our feet on the ground and take things one step at a time. That is the only way we will be able to get close to the favourites.'

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas, one of the most experienced members of the squad despite only recently turning 25, was optimistic Spain could cast aside their reputation as perennial underachievers.

'Something always seems to happen to us,' he told sports daily Marca.

'Either the team doesn't play well or the referees' decisions go against us or something else happens. Spain has been unlucky on many occasions, but we've never known how to play these big matches.

'There has been a major generational change since Euro 2004 and with the young players we have and the enthusiasm they have to do well we want to do something big at this World Cup.'

Spain, who have been drawn with Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia in Group H, meet up in Madrid on Monday to begin their preparations for the World Cup.

They play a warm-up match against Russia in Albacete on Saturday, followed by a week's further training in Valencia and a friendly against African champions Egypt in Elche on June 3.

They complete their preparations with a match against fellow World Cup qualifiers Croatia in Geneva on June 7 and open their campaign against Ukraine in Leipzig a week later.