Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Spot on Trio

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Spot on Trio

Article excerpt

Byline: By Dave Prentice

Spain's 2002 World Cup campaign ended cruelly and prematurely ( South Korea's cooler heads in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out prevailing.

But this time the Spanish look altogether better equipped to avoid that fate.

For a start, their finals squad contains three players from Liverpool ( the team which has won the FA Cup and the Champions League in penalty shoot-outs in the past 12 months.

But while Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia have proved their composure in front of goal, it is their team-mate with the job of facing spot kicks who has a phenomenal record from 12 yards.

Reina stopped three of the four kicks he faced in the FA Cup Final shoot-out in Cardiff.

But few of his Spanish team-mates were surprised.

During his final season in La Liga, playing for Villarreal, Reina saved seven out of nine spot-kicks he faced during the season.

"Pepe is famous in Spain for saving penalties," conceded his coach, Rafael Benitez, although Reina was more circumspect.

"I had a good reputation for penalty saving in Spain, but it makes me afraid to talk about it," he said. "People might think 'oh it's OK now we have gone to penalties ( Pepe will save them.'

"Really it's a lottery. But I practice penalties every day. We have competitions every day for lunches and dinners."

Reina's first challenge, of course, is to oust No 1 choice Iker Cassilas from the Spanish goalkeeping slot.

But while Reina is uncertain of his starting place in Germany, Anfield team-mates Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia are almost certain to feature.

Alonso is the midfield metronome who dictates the pace of play both for club and country, while Garcia is the unpredictable sprite with the ability to snatch crucial goals just when it matters most.

Twice a matchwinner in semi-final showdowns with Chelsea ( in the FA Cup and the Champions League ( Garcia also scored a stunning strike in a Champions League quarter-final against Juventus ( and fired the goals which secured Spain's place at the World Cup finals. …

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