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Raul confident of being in top form for World Cup

Written by: Staff
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MADRID, Apr 4 (Reuters) Spain captain Raul believes he will be in peak form at the World Cup despite missing three months of the season with a serious knee injury and subsequently struggling to regain his place in the Real Madrid team.

''The knee is feeling better and better all the time,'' the striker told Spanish sports daily Marca today.

''At the moment I feel brilliant and the truth is the knee hasn't given me any problems. I hope I can have a great World Cup.'' The 28-year-old sustained a partial tear of the cruciate ligament and damaged the cartilage in his left knee during his side's 3-0 defeat against Barcelona in November and did not return to action until mid-February.

He has not yet been able to win back his place in the Real Madrid starting line-up and with Ronaldo, Robinho, Julio Baptista and Antonio Cassano all competing for a berth up front he has been limited to bit-part appearances.

But the Real Madrid skipper, who did not play in last Saturday's 1-1 draw against Barcelona, is confident he will get more games as the season draws to an end.

''I hope to participate a bit more in the final seven games so that I can gain the match fitness I need,'' he said. ''The World Cup starts in June, we have got three friendlies before then and I think I will be in good form.'' Spain coach Luis Aragones said that he retained full confidence in Raul even though he was not getting enough games for Real.

''If the game against Ukraine (Spain's opening game in the World Cup) was tomorrow, then Raul might not play,'' he told a conference yesterday.

''But I know that Raul will be playing, that he will be in the Real Madrid starting lineup for the remainder of the league and that he will go to the World Cup. He is a vital player for us.'' Raul is Spain's all-time leading goal scorer with 42 goals in 92 appearances.

Spain have been drawn alongside Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia in Group H for the World Cup finals in Germany.

REUTERS PDS RS1614

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