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Cup hoodoo torments underachieving Spain

Written by: Staff
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MADRID, June 5 (Reuters) It says a lot for Spain's World Cup record that the high point most frequently cited by fans is a 1-0 victory over England in 1950.

A goal by Telmo Zarra, the all-time leading scorer in Spain's top-flight, helped his country to the semi-finals, their best showing in the tournament.

Zarra, famously described as ''the best head in Europe apart from Churchill'', drilled the ball home to knock out a mighty England side that contained Stanley Matthews, Billy Wright and Tom Finney.

Spain failed to make the final after losing 6-1 to hosts Brazil in a mini-league between the top four teams.

This one bright spot aside, Spain's World Cup history is littered with disappointment, controversy, bad luck and episodes of sheer ineptitude that have driven even the most devoted fans to despair.

Fans, media, coaches and even players talk about the curse of the quarter-finals, the round where the team have come unstuck in three of the last five World Cups.

''Something always seems to happen to us,'' Spain keeper ker Casillas said recently. ''Either the team doesn't play well or the referees's decisions go against us or something else.'' Spain's World Cup hoodoo began in their inaugural appearance in 1934 when they were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Italy in controversial circumstances.

The sides drew 1-1, with an apparently illegal goal allowing the Italians to equalise.

Eventual winners Italy won a replay 1-0 but were accused of being allowed to get away with heavy-handed tactics on home soil.

CIVIL WAR Spain were unable to take part in 1938 because of the Civil War and again in 1954, this time missing out on the toss of a coin after drawing a playoff qualifier with Turkey.

Despite the presence of great players like Alfredo Di Stefano and Ladislao Kubala, they also failed to qualify in 1958.

One of the biggest disappointments came four years later when a team containing Ferenc Puskas, Paco Gento, European Footballer of the Year Luis Suarez and an injured Di Stefano failed to make it past the first round.

MORE REUTERS AY VC1002

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