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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Raul has international future, insists Del Bosque

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque insists the door remains open for record-breaking striker Raul to earn a recall to the national team.

Raul is Spain's leading goalscorer and one of only two players to win more than 100 caps for his country, but he has been in the international wilderness for almost two years after being overlooked by former coach Luis Aragones and - so far - by Del Bosque.

Spain's success without Raul at this summer's European Championships would suggest the Real Madrid captain is now even further down the pecking order, but Del Bosque has given the 31-year-old forward some words of encouragement.

"I've known him since he was in the Atletico youth sides, with whom he was champion of Spain. And a year later he repeated it with Madrid," the former Real Madrid coach said.

"I understand that there is a debate. We are not talking about any old player. He has played 102 times with Spain and remains a starter with Madrid.

"Nobody is going to stop him coming into the national team if he is playing very well."

Del Bosque has enjoyed a successful start to his reign with victories over Denmark, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia, scoring eight goals and conceding none in the process.

Some coaches might have found it awkward taking over a country that had just won their first major trophy in 44 years, but Del Bosque insists he would much rather take control of a successful side than an unsuccessful one - as was the case with England coach Fabio Capello.

"Last week I was in a meeting with the national coaches and technical directors. There they had a nice tribute to Luis Aragones and the Spanish national team and also some presentations," Del Bosque said in AS.

"In one of them Capello and I were used as an example of two diametrically opposed situations - a new coach with a national team who had come from the failure of not qualifying (England), and the other who took over a title-winning team.

"There Capello spoke of the problems of language and adapting to a new country, and I realised that my situation is much better. It's always better to lead a group who have been winning than another who are trying to recover from a disaster.

"People called me during the European Championship to paint the success of Spain as a drama for me, for the pressure of inheriting a championship-winning team. But for me I find it easier to work in a favourable climate."

Del Bosque's task now is to try and add a first ever World Cup crown to the European Championship success, but while he does not want to dampen anyone's enthusiasm, he knows it will not be easy.

"It will not be me who curbs anyone's desire to see Spain win a World Cup," he said.

"The optimism is good, but look at the players that the likes of England, Portugal or Russia have in Europe, or Brazil and Argentina in South America. Now, it's better to think that we are going to be champions than to think the opposite."


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