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Algeria unfazed by ANC snub

Football Africa 55 minutes ago
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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 31, 2006

Spain aim for flying start against Liechtenstein

MADRID, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Still smarting from the disappointment of yet another premature exit at a World Cup, Spain are looking for a convincing win against Liechtenstein in their opening Euro 2008 qualifier on Saturday.

'We are conscious that we have to look to the future,' midfielder Xabi Alonso said on Wednesday. 'We would like to have finished the World Cup in a different way, but now we have to look forward and concentrate on the European championship.

'If we want to qualify we have to start taking the first steps in our opening two games and come away with six points.'

Spain follow Saturday's Group F opener in Badajoz with a trip to Belfast to face Northern Ireland on Wednesday.

On paper they should come away with comfortable victories, though slip-ups in their last two qualifying campaigns forced Spain to take the play-off route to reach the tournament finals.

They would do well not to underestimate Liechtenstein, who came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Portugal in a World Cup qualifier in October 2004.

Luis Aragones's side were sluggish in a 0-0 draw in Iceland earlier this month and the players have admitted they have yet to show the sort of spark that has taken the national basketball team to the semi-finals of the world championships in Japan.

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas said players felt a degree of healthy jealousy at the team's success.

'We are happy and proud of what the basketball team are doing and of course we are envious too,' the Real Madrid player said earlier this week. 'I wish we could get as far as them.'

Despite Spain's early exit in Germany, Aragones has kept faith with almost exactly the same players for the first round of qualifiers.

He has ignored calls to draft in fresh talent and the only newcomer to the squad is Celta Vigo midfielder Borja Oubina, a key player for the Primera Liga side last season.

If training is anything to go by, Oubina will have to wait his turn on the bench, while Alonso, David Albelda and Cesc Fabregas are favourites to start as the midfield trio with skipper Raul, David Villa and Fernando Torres up front.