Raul, Tristan and Albelda fitness doubt for Spain

GWANGJU, South Korea, AFP

The Spanish nervously waited to see if star striker Raul would be fit for today’s World Cup quarterfinal against South Korea.

Raul could not train with the team Friday and is joined by fellow front man Diego Tristan and midfielder David Albelda as doubts for the game.

Team doctor Genaro Borras said Raul’s groin injury, suffered in last Sunday’s win over Ireland, was responding after treatment throughout the week and rated the 24 year-old a possible starter.

“Raul wants to play, but even if he does play he won’t be 100 percent fit,” said Borras. “It is obvious he will not be completely right after missing five days training.”

Raul appeared with heavy strapping around the injury and restricted himself to a light jog with injured keeper Santiago Canizares, who is a spectator at the finals having missed a place on the squad after dropping a bottle of aftershave on his foot.

Several times Raul called Borras over to adjust the bandage before setting off on another circuit around the pitch. The Real Madrid star then kicked a few balls for photographers under the gaze of his personal trainer Pedro Chueca and exchanged a few words with coach Jose Antonio Camacho.

Front man Fernando Morientes, who has scored three goals in the campaign, said Raul was important to the team but it was probably better if he missed the game if he was not 100 percent fit.

“I do not know if he (Raul) will play but if he is not 100 percent I do not think he should play,” said Morientes. “He is the sort of player who needs to be at his best physically to play well.

“We all know his importance to the team but, if we have to, Spain will play without him and do our best. I like to play alongside him but if he is not there I will just have to partner somebody else.”

Morientes added that Spain were expecting a tough ride against Korea.

“It will not be an easy game, Korea are very well organized,” he added. “You cannot say their heading game is a weakness but it is not their strength either.

“If we play to the top of our form we can beat Korea even though the heat and the spectators will be against us.”

He added that Korean coach Guus Hiddink, who used to be with Real Madrid, would have prepared them well.

“He is a great coach and we know that he will have planned well for the game,” he said. “He is in charge of a Korean team which never quits.”

Tristan is laboring under a groin strain, as well as an ankle knock, and were he and Raul to fail to make the starting line-up Spanish options up front with Morientes would be limited.

Albelda has been getting over a testicular strain which forced him off the field near the end of normal time in the match with Ireland and resulted in Spain playing extra time with 10 men.

Ruben Baraja said that the heat, the referee and Korea’s technical ability would not prevent a Spanish victory.

“We have to show that Spanish football is stronger than Korean football,” he said. “Even in the blazing heat they cannot (be allowed) to stop us. Tactically they will be very well prepared (by Hiddink). They are very persistent and physically strong.

“If we are good enough the referee will not be important.”