By Matt Gatward
In the wake of yet another disappointing major tournament for Spain - on this occasion the 2002 FIFA World Cup in the Far East - the national team have turned to a promising crop of youngsters. And one, for whom hopes are high, may get a chance to prove his ability in Friday night's UEFA Super Cup.
Roberto Carlos role
Real Madrid CF's Raúl Bravo will, in all likelihood, be on the substitutes' bench in Monaco when the European Cup holders take on Feyenoord given that one Roberto Carlos occupies the same position as the 21-year-old. However, the left-wing back is eager to take his chance when it comes.
Desire to win
"I don't mind being on the bench for Real Madrid," he said. "Roberto Carlos, the best left wing in the world, plays in the same position as me and what I have to do is to learn to play alongside him." Of the Super Cup he said: "We want to win the first title of the season. We have a lot of desire to win this final. Although the Dutch team began their preparation early and they will be in better shape than us, we think we are technically better and if we play as we know we can, we have a great chance to win."
Although Raúl Bravo knows his chances at Real will be limited he has already become a member of the national side. He impressed on his Spain debut last Wednesday in a friendly match against Hungary in Budapest where the team earned a creditable 1-1 draw. And, it seems, to be in coach Iñaki Sáez's mind is enough to keep the talented youngster content at the moment. "It's OK to be on the bench for Real Madrid if then Iñaki Sáez invites me to play for the national team," he said.
Raúl Bravo, who has represented Spain at all youth levels, joined many fellow youngsters, as well as a couple of star names, in Sáez's first match in charge. Pablo Orbaiz of Athletic Club Bilbao, Juanito of Real Betis Balonpié, Club Atlético de Madrid's José Antonio García Calvo and Carlos Marchena of Valencia CF also all played for the national side for the first time. "I wasn't nervous," Raúl Bravo said. "I know perfectly all the rest of the players because all of us had played with the Under-18 or Under-21 Spanish teams before. So the understanding was excellent. And the older players [Raúl González, Fernando Morientes, Íker Casillas] are very young too and they supported us a lot."
Familiar with players
Sáez, who was appointed following the resignation of José Antonio Camacho after the World Cup, is familiar with many of the youngsters having guided Spanish sides to victory in the FIFA Under-20 World Championship in 1999 and the UEFA Under-19 European Championship in 2002. He also won the Olympic silver medal in Sydney in 2000.
The familiarity has clearly helped the young players to adapt. "Iñaki Sáez told me before the match that he wanted me to play as I know, as if I was playing in the Under-21 national team and I think this advice worked well because I was satisfied with the match I played," Raúl Bravo said. And, it seems, this gifted youngster would love just to be given the chance to do it all again on Friday.
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