Embattled Aragones cautiously optimistic after Spain win

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MADRID, Oct 14 (Reuters) Spain coach Luis Aragones took the opportunity to have a dig at his detractors after the 3-1 win in Denmark put the side in a strong position to qualify for Euro 2008.

Goals from Raul Tamudo, Sergio Ramos and debutant Albert Riera put Spain level on 22 points with leaders Sweden at the top of Group F yesterday.

Northern Ireland are third on 16 points, with Denmark two points further back in fourth. Spain have played a game more than the other three.

''The debate (over my position) can take place and I accept it, as I do the criticism, but what I cannot accept are the insults,'' said Aragones, who had refused to speak to the media after the last match against Latvia.

''I am experienced enough to handle all this but it affects the players because I am their coach and boss.'' After some unimpressive displays, drawing 1-1 away in Iceland, and beating Latvia 2-0 at home, Spain scored three well-worked goals in Aarhus, though had to rely on some fine saves from Iker Casillas towards the end to see them home.

Especially pleasing for Aragones will have been Tamudo's contribution.

The Espanyol striker was called up to replace the injured David Villa earlier in the week, and then started after Fernando Torres also succumbed to injury.

Tamudo opened the scoring in 14th minute with a header, forcing Denmark to came out and attack, and then provided the pass for Ramos to score the second at the end of a flowing move in the 40th, for a 2-0 lead.

Sections of the Spanish media had questioned whether Real Madrid's Raul should have been called up instead.

''I don't enter these debates. I don't understand it. I try to do what I think is best though I admit I could get it wrong,'' he responded when asked if he felt vindicated.

Looking ahead to Spain's remaining two games at home to Sweden and Northern Ireland next month, Aragones remained cautious.

''In football, until you are qualified mathematically you cannot be sure of anything,'' he said.

REUTERS BJR KN1540

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