WORLD CUP: GROUP D

SPAIN have flattered to deceive so many times in World Cups, so why should this one be any different? One might say that we have been saying much the same thing these past 32 years about Real Madrid, too, and it finally came good for them, even if their European Cup-winning side did contain more than a smattering of foreigners.

Support for Javier Clemente's Spain, however, does seem to be on a firmer footing this time. That is in no doubt due to a confidence-building run of success - more than 30 games without defeat - and their performance in Euro 96, when even some English must admit they were unlucky to go out to the hosts in the quarter-finals. Last and not least, they have players who can score goals.

The sceptics will say that the latter reason, at the highest level, has yet to be proven and with relatively inexperienced forwards there is some truth in that. But there is an impressive allround quality and solidity about the side. In the midfielders Louis Enrique and Julen Guerrero they have added goal-scoring potential, while in Fernando Hierro they have arguably the best defender in the world.

Traditionally slow starters, they could have done without an opening match against the Super Eagles. It is generally agreed that Nigeria represent Africa's best hope of bringing the title back to that continent for the first time. But for a lack of professionalism they might have done even better at USA 94 and, of course, two years later at the Olympic Games they eventually did, winning the gold medal.

With many of their better players now performing in Europe they are much less of an unknown quantity. If they can keep their minds on football matters, they will take some stopping.

Qualifying ahead of Russia, Bulgaria cannot be a completely spent force, but there must be a major worry about the match fitness of their most influential player, the incomparable Hristo Stoichkov, after his redundant season at Barcelona. The threat of player power ruining their hopes is a real danger and the coach, Hristo Bonev, may not be kidding when he says: "It is unrealistic to talk about finishing fourth again."

Somewhat surprise runners-up to Argentina - beaten by only a point - in the arduous South American qualifying programme, Paraguay have looked singularly unimpressive since arriving in Europe for their warm-up games and one senses that serious damage may have been done to their confidence by the way the Dutch beat them in a canter.

SPAIN

Previous appearances: 9 (1934, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994)

Best performances: Fourth 1950. Quarter-finals: 1986, 1994.

Record: P37, W15, D9, L13

1 Andoni Zubizarreta Valencia

2 Albert Ferrer Barcelona

3 Agustin Aranzabal Real Sociedad

4 Rafael Alkorta Athletic Bilbao

5 Abelardo Barcelona

6 Fernando Hierro Real Madrid

7 Francisco Morientes Real Madrid

8 Julen Guerrero Athletic Bilbao

9 Juan Antonio Pizzi Barcelona

10 Raul Real Madrid

11 Alfonso Real Betis

12 Sergi Barcelona

13 Santiago Canizares Real Madrid

14 Ivan Campo Mallorca

15 Carlos Aguilera Atletico Madrid

16 Albert Celades Barcelona

17 Joseba Etxeberria Athletic Bilbao

18 Guillermo Amor Barcelona

19 Kiko Atletico Madrid

20 Miguel Angel Nadal Barcelona

21 Luis Enrique Barcelona

22 Jose Molina Atletico Madrid

Coach: Javier Clemente

WATCH OUT FOR...

They may not both make the starting line-up, but Fernando Morientes and Raul will surely make their mark sooner rather than later. Morientes, 22, had only just won a regular place in the Real Madrid side in March when he was called up for a full international debut against Sweden later the same month - but he could hardly have answered his critics more quickly. He scored his first goal with less than 60 seconds on the clock and added a second just four minutes later. Raul, who will be 21 on the day the second round starts, has had a less successful season for the same club, but still possesses vision and maturity far beyond his years.

NIGERIA

Previous appearances: 1 (1994)

Best performance: Second round (1994)

Record: P4, W2, D0, L2

1 Peter Rufai Deportivo La Coruna

2 Jero Shakpoke Reggiana

3 Celestine Babayaro Chelsea

4 Nwankwo Kanu Internazionale

5 Uche Okechukwu Fenerbahce

6 Taribo West Internazionale

7 Finidi George Real Betis

8 Mutiu Adepoju Real Sociedad

9 Rashidi Yekini FC Zurich

10 Austin Okocha Fenerbahce

11 Garba Lawal Roda JC Kerkrade

12 Willy Okpara Orlando Pirates

13 Tijani Babangida Ajax

14 Daniel Amokachi Besiktas

15 Sunday Oliseh Ajax

16 Uche Okafor Kansas City Wizards

17 Augustine Eguavoen Torpedo Moscow

18 Wilson Oruma Lens

19 Ben Iroha Elche

20 Victor Ikpeba Monaco

21 Godwin Okpara Strasbourg

22 Abiodun Baruwa Sion

Coach: Bora Milutinovic

WATCH OUT FOR...

It isn't that difficult winning the World Cup if you have at your disposal players as good as Brazil's in 1970 and 1994 - or if your side has home advantage and the help of a short-sighted linesman from Azerbaijan. Bora Milutinovic, however, has taken Mexico to the quarter-finals and both Costa Rica and the United States to the second round. That is some achievement - and few would bet against him doing well again with Nigeria this time round. Along with Saudi Arabia's Carlos Alberto Parreira (previously with Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Brazil), he will become the first coach to take four different countries to the finals.

BULGARIA

Previous appearances: 6 (1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1986, 1994)

Best performance: Semi-finalists 1994 (3rd)

Record: P23, W3, D7, L13

1 Zdravko Zdravkov Istanbulspor

2 Radostin Kishishev Bursaspor

3 Trifon Ivanov CSKA Sofia

4 Ivailo Petkov Litex Lovetch

5 Ivailo Yordanov Sporting Lisbon

6 Zlatko Yankov Besiktas

7 Emil Kostadinov CSKA Sofia

8 Hristo Stoichkov CSKA Sofia

9 Lyuboslav Penev Compostela

10 Krassimir Balakov VfB Stuttgart

11 Ilian Iliev Bursaspor

12 Borislav Mikhailov Slavia Sofia

13 Gosho Ginchev Antalya

14 Marian Hristov Kaiserslautern

15 Adalbert Zafirov Arminia Bielefeld

16 Anatoli Nankov Locomotiv Sofia

17 Stoicho Stoilov Litex Lovetch

18 Daniel Borimirov 1860 Munich

19 Georgi Bachev Slavia Sofia

20 Georgi Ivanov Levski Sofia

21 Rosen Kirilov Litex Lovetch

22 Milen Petkov CSKA Sofia

Coach: Hristo Bonev

WATCH OUT FOR...

He's back and he's hairy...Trifon Ivanov, the hirsute defensive hard man (known as the Wolfman) who excelled at both USA 94 and Euro 96, found his place in the national squad in doubt earlier this year. Along with two other veterans, Emil Kostadinov and Hristo Stoichkov, Ivanov had returned home to play for CSKA Sofia but then found that his promised salary was not forthcoming. The national coach, Hristo Bonev, threatened to drop them if they were not playing regularly, but has now relented. Ivanov's tackling can be as fearsome as his appearance, but he plays as well and is dangerous up front at set pieces.

PARAGUAY

Previous appearances: 4 (1930, 1950, 1958, 1986)

Best performance: Second round (1986)

Record: P11, W3, D4, L4

1 Jose Luis Chilavert Velez Sarsfield

2 Francisco Arce Palmeiras

3 Catalino Rivarola Gremio

4 Carlos Gamarra Corinthians

5 Celso Ayala River Plate

6 Edgar Aguilera Cerro Cora

7 Juan Carlos Yegros Cruz Azul

8 Aristides Aranda Rojas U Santa Fe

9 Jose Cardozo Necaxa

10 Roberto Acuna Real Zaragoza

11 Pedro Sarabia River Plate

12 Danielo Aceval Union Santa Fe

13 Carlos Paredes Olimpia

14 Ricardo Rojas Estudiantes

15 Miguel Benitez Espanyol

16 Julio Cesar Enciso Internacional

17 Hugo Brizuela Argentinos Juniors

18 Cesar Ramirez Sporting Lisbon

19 Carlos Morales Gimnasia Jujuy

20 Denis Caniza Olimpia

21 Jorge Campos Peking Guoan

22 Ruben Ruiz Diaz Monterrey

Coach: Paulo Cesar Carpeggiani

WATCH OUT FOR...

Given the feeble reputation of Paraguay's strikeforce, it is entirely conceivable that their goalkeeper will finish the tournament as their top scorer. Jose Luis Chilavert has scored more than 40 goals in his career for club and country. He takes both penalties and direct free-kicks - one of which he scored from to earn his country a crucial point in a World Cup qualifier in Argentina. A colourful and controversial character, he often claims to be the best goalkeeper in the world. He may not be that, but he could well become the first custodian to score at a World Cup.

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?