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Spain given upbeat send-off by Prime Minister

Written by: Staff
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MADRID, June 6 (Reuters) Spain Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero gave the national team his best wishes for their World Cup campaign today as they left to play a final warm-up match in Geneva before the tournament begins.

''I wanted to wish the national team the best of luck and to let them know that all the Spanish people are behind them as they leave for the finals,'' Zapatero told reporters. ''I am convinced we are going to have a great tournament this time.'' The Prime Minister, a fan of Champions League winners Barcelona, said the success of Spanish clubs in Europe this season augured well for the national team's chances in Germany.

''Spanish sport is in good shape at the moment as we have seen with Sevilla and Barcelona winning European trophies this season,'' he said. Sevilla triumphed in the UEFA Cup.

''We have a good team, very young, which is also good for the future. They appear confident and enthusiastic and we have a coach (Luis Aragones) who is very shrewd.'' Zapatero said that although he supports Barca, he is a particular fan of Spain captain Raul whose place in the side has been questioned after a disappointing season at Real Madrid.

''I really like Raul,'' he said. ''He gives his all on the pitch and we have seen him playing well in the last few games.'' Spain drew 0-0 with Russia and beat African champions Egypt 2-0 in recent friendlies. They play fellow World Cup qualifiers Croatia in their final warm-up game in Geneva tomorrow before heading off to their training base in Kamen, Germany.

Spain begin their World Cup campaign against Ukraine in Leipzig on June 14 and then face Tunisia and Saudi Arabia in their remaining matches in Group H.

REUTERS DH ND1650

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