Spain seeks to change World Cup luck

June 13, 2006 at 9:26 AM
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LEIPZIG, Germany, June 13 (UPI) -- Spain, which meets Ukraine in its first game in the 2006 World Cup, is trying to shake the image of a team that never finishes its World Cup very well.

Spain and Ukraine have their first World Cup game Wednesday in Leipzig, the first match in Group H play. Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, the other Group H members, play their first game Wednesday in Munich.

This year marks the 12th time Spain has sent a team to the World Cup tournament but the best finish the Spaniards managed was a fourth -- and that was in the 1950. Now, given an advantageous group, Spain looks to build momentum for elimination play.

It may take a changing of the guard to change Spain's fortunes. The team has some talented younger players -- notably forward Fernando Torres -- ready to break through if given the chance.

Ukraine is a World Cup neophyte, qualifying for its first tournament, although in a more handy fashion than traditional entry Spain. Several of Ukraine's players, however, have World Cup experience from when the country was part of the Soviet Union.

Under their own colors they've displayed a strong defense -- six shutouts by goalkeeper Aleksandr Shovkovski in qualifying -- and an offense that can put a game away.

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