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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Raul waits to shine
Raul in action for Spain
The Spain striker is already an international veteran

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Still only 24 years of age, Raul has already got two European Cup winners' medals.

And if Real Madrid beat Bayer Leverkusen on 15 May at Hampden Park, the striker will complete a remarkable hat-trick of European Cup triumphs.

Fittingly Raul's wonderful strike against Barcelona in the semi-final - his sixth in the Champions League this season - confirmed Real's place in the final.

He is also already considered Spain's best ever player and is Fifa's third best player in the world.

His two goals against Northern Ireland in the recent friendly took his international tally to 25 and helped him surpass the great Alfredo di Stefano's 23 goals for his country.

Open Quote
The national team has to be seen as a team, where each player has to assume his part
Close Quote
Spain's Raul

Now he is closing in on Spain's most prolific goalscorers in the national team's history - his captain Fernando Hierro (on 27 goals) and Emilio 'The Vulture' Butragueno on 26.

An impressive record, and given Raul's goalscoring feats there seems little doubt that the Real striker will soon overtake Hierro.

Even so Raul's memories of World Cup football are less rosy.

In France four years ago, as Spain failed to reach the last 16, Raul managed just one goal.

"This time around, I expect to help the national team to achieve more," the Real striker told BBC Sport Online.

"We have high expectations and I hope it is a good tournament for Spain."

If Raul's goalscoring record ensures that he is the focus of much of the Spanish media's attention, he is keen to point out that the team comes before any individual.

"Spain has many players of quality and lots of experience.

"My presence in the team could help boost expectations, that's true, but I think that's also wrong.

"The national team has to be seen as a team, where each player has to assume his part. I will try and play mine the best I can."

Raul
Raul wants to give his best in Korea and Japan.

Despite Spain's ignominous exit in France, Raul is confident that that is unlikely to happen again.

"In football one cannot talk about victory before the game. Sometimes things work, sometimes not," he added.

"There have been cases of big teams going home early like Brazil in Italy 90.

"Furthermore, they struggled in the last qualifying process. Anything can happen in Korea and Japan.

"France and Argentina are strong teams, but there other too. Spain are certainly one of them along with Portugal, Brazil, Germany or Italy."

Raul made his debut for Real Madrid in 1994 at just 17 years and four months old.

And in his first season in La Liga, he scored nine times in 28 appearances and won a Spanish league championship medal.

Within two years he had also made his debut for the national side, winning his first cap in October 1996.

The striker now looks to the example of his club colleague Zinedine Zidane for inspiration.

The Frenchman has won the World Cup And the European Championships, though suprisingly not the European Cup.

"Zidane has won everything at international level. Those accomplishments are very far from me at present, but I'm going to fight for them."

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GROUP B
  P GD PTS
SPAIN 3 +5 9
PARAGUAY 3 0 4
SOUTH AFRICA 3 0 4
SLOVENIA 3 -5 0

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