RCD Espanyol emerged from the shadow of city rivals FC Barcelona on Saturday with three of their players taking centre stage in Spain's 3-1 win against Denmark in Aarhus.
'The other Raúl'
It was the first time three Espanyol players had lined up together for Spain, and Luis García, Raúl Tamudo and Albert Riera did club and country proud as Luis Aragonés's side took a large step towards qualifying for UEFA EURO 2008™ from Group F. Known as "the other Raúl", in deference to his namesake Raúl González, Tamudo was only playing because of injury to David Villa and Fernando Torres and he made the most of his chance. Having scored the opening goal on 14 minutes, the 29-year-old Espanyol captain set up Sergio Ramos for Spain's second five minutes before half-time.
"The ball went in from the first opportunity we had and that made the victory a lot easier," Tamudo said. "We're here to play well and I think we did against Denmark. There were three Espanyol players on the pitch and our contribution was important. We know it's tougher for an Espanyol player to make it to the [UEFA] European Championship, but we want to make the most of this and get there. There are good strikers in Spain and a lot of competition so I'm very happy to be here."
Debutant Albert Riera, 25, added Spain's third goal in the 89th minute in memorable fashion, smashing a 20-metre drive into the roof of the net to end any hope of a Denmark comeback. "I think my goal was spectacular," the midfielder said. "When I hit the ball I realised it was going in. I didn't bother to watch it, I went to celebrate with the team. I'm enjoying a good run with both my club and the national team, and I hope it carries on like this. It was a fantastic debut."
Tamudo's display vindicated Aragonés's decision to omit Raúl González, yet the Spain coach was again on the defensive after the match. "I accept criticism but I have felt insulted at times and I won't accept that," he said. "I don't want to take anything for granted until we're mathematically through. I'm happy with the first half and we were lucky in the second, although we did have chances to score from counterattacks." Spain are level with Sweden on 22 points at the top of Group F but have played a game more. They face Finland in a friendly on Wednesday before concluding their campaign at home to both the Swedes and Northern Ireland on 17 and 21 November.
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