Aragones set to quit against Spain wishes

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The Independent Online

Luis Aragones is likely to step down as Spain coach despite the Spanish Football Federation's desire for him to continue following his team's 3-1 knock-out defeat by France in the second round on Tuesday.

"I said if we didn't finish among the top four I would go, and today I still think the same," Aragones said on arriving in Madrid yesterday.

However, the federation president, Angel Maria Villar Llona, had said: "We are very happy with the work Luis has done and we hope he will continue to lead the team as they prepare for the next European Championship. He has renovated the team, introduced young players with a lot of enthusiasm and we want him to continue. It has not been a failure."

Aragones had been non-committal as to his future when pressed as the team left Dortmund. "I got up this morning angry with myself because we didn't achieve what we set out to do. But I have a clear conscience. I am going to continue coaching but I don't know where."

The defeat was Aragones' first in 26 matches since taking over from Iñaki Saez after Spain's first-round exit at Euro 2004.

Carles Puyol believes his team were unlucky to be knocked out. He felt the expectations of a young Spanish side had perhaps been too high. "We didn't think we were favourites," the defender said. "We knew we were facing a strong French team with a lot of experience in this type of tournament. It hurts, though, considering how we went out: had France been superior I would have accepted it."

Spain supporters made a mistake by not showing France enough respect, Les Bleus' coach Raymond Domenech said yesterday.

The French anthem was booed by Spanish fans before the match on Tuesday. Domenech also suggested that some Spain supporters had made monkey noises when the bus carrying the France players arrived at the stadium.

"When I hear monkey noises made around the team bus or whistles during the anthem, I just don't listen," Domenech said. "A football player is all about pride. When you hurt that, you make a mistake. We use all we can to motivate players. When our opponents give us extra motivation, it's even better."

Puyol claimed that Spain did not have luck on their side in Germany. Despite finishing top of their group, they faced the 1998 World Cup winners in the next round. "We lacked fortune."

Puyol was adamant the Italian referee, Roberto Rosetti, should not have given the foul that led to France's second goal as he believed he had positioned himself in front of Thierry Henry fairly. "I never like to talk about refereeing decisions but on this occasion he did not make the right choice. I was very surprised because I thought the foul would go against Henry."

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