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Spain desperate for good result against group leader Sweden

Spain desperate for good result against group leader Sweden

Spain heads into Saturday's European Championship qualifier against Sweden without captain Raul Gonzalez and with coach Luis Aragones' job on the line.
The veteran Spanish coach is desperate for a good result against Group F leader Sweden, which will play without Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Rasunda stadium outside Stockholm.
Aragones offered his resignation after last month's humiliating 3-2 loss to Northern Ireland but the Spanish soccer federation rejected it. However, another loss could seal his fate.
"I could find myself without a job but it's the team for which everything is at stake," Aragones said.
Spanish Football Federation president Angel Villar said Aragones had "the total and absolute respect of the the federation whatever the result."
"He is the ideal person to to lead the Spanish side," Villar said. "He is the man the federation has put put its confidence in and we will be by his side independent of Saturday's result."
Real Madrid forward Jose Antonio Reyes has been ruled out because of a torn muscle in his right thigh and will be replaced in the squad by uncapped Sevilla attacking midfielder Antonio Puerta.
Three Valencia players are also sidelined with injuries _ defenders Asier del Horno and Carlos Marchena, and midfielder Ruben Baraja.
Sweden looks thin up front. Ibrahimovic dropped out of the squad after falling out with coach Lars Lagerback while FC Copenhagen striker Marcus Allback is uncertain because of a torn stomach muscle.
With Henrik Larsson retired from the national team, Sweden may have to rely less accomplished strikers such as Ajax substitute Markus Rosenberg and Johan Elmander of Toulouse.
Aragones has dropped a few of his World Cup players for the match, including Raul, Spain's all-time leading scorer with 44 goals from 102 games. It was the first time in 10 years that the Real Madrid captain had been dropped.
"I'll always be the Spanish national team's number one fan and I respect the coach's decision," Raul said.
Aragones denied he had fallen out with Raul, although he said he hadn't called the striker to explain his omission.
"I have always had a good relationship with him and for me it will continue to be so. I'm sorry not to be able to bring him," Aragones said.
Raul has been replaced in the squad by Valencia's attacking midfielder Miguel Angel Angulo, whose only previous appearance was against England in a November 2004 friendly in Madrid.
Aragones also dropped Valencia right winger Joaquin Sanchez, Atletico Madrid left-back Mariano Pernia and Celta Vigo midfielder Borja Oubina.
"Right now, the national team is a mess, chaos," Sanchez told Spanish radio. "And Luis doesn't know how to handle it in these difficult moments."
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas will captain the side.
Lagerback said defense was Spain's weak spot, noting it conceded three goals to Northern Ireland.
"They try to defend high up in the field and are maybe a bit too offensive in their style," Lagerback said, adding that Raul's omission could affect Spain's morale. "We'll see how much Raul has meant to the group, it's hard to say in advance."
Sweden and Spain are the group favorites along with Denmark.
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Associated Press Writer Stephen Mackey in Madrid contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-08-05 20:27 GMT+08:00