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10 good reasons to love Rafa Benitez

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After our (rather unsuccessful) attempts to convince you of Raymond Domenech’s appealing qualities, our thoughts turn to that much-maligned manager from Madrid, Rafa Benitez.

Liverpool went out of the Champions League on Tuesday night despite a 1-0 win over Debrecen, as Lyon failed to bite in Fiorentina.  

Benitez is taking a lot of stick from fans and non-fans alike but here are 10 (OK, nine) good reasons to love the man:

1. His detractors still put it down to as much to luck as judgment, but the achievement in taking that ragtag bunch of players to Champions League glory in 2005 just can’t be underestimated. The shake-up at half-time, bringing on Dietmar Hamann and switching to a three-man defence, changed a game that no one in the world believed could be salvaged and gave Benitez the defining moment of his coaching career.

Spain have Brazil in their sights

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Spain’s 2-1 friendly victory over Argentina on Saturday was further evidence that the European champions are going to take some stopping if they are to be denied their first ever World Cup triumph.

Vicente del Bosque’s men will have the bruises to show that ‘friendly’ was perhaps not the best word to describe an exciting and competitive match that was lucky to finish with 22 men still on the pitch.

Should Rooney seek his fortune abroad?

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Manchester United fans will doubtless be pleased by Wayne Rooney’s latest comments pouring cold, or at least lukewarm water on the idea that he might move to Barcelona, or anywhere else for that matter.

Good news for United it may be, but I’m not so sure it’s in England’s interests for so few of the country’s leading players to try their luck abroad.

Arsenal emerge as shining light in Champions League

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Out of eight Spanish and English teams playing in the Champions League this week, only Arsenal were victorious.

Was this a blip for the two powerhouses, or is it another indication that Europe’s top club competition is becoming more balanced?

La Liga: The most boring competition in Europe?

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A few days ago, Real Zaragoza president Eduardo Bandres said: “The Spanish league will be a matter totally and absolutely between two teams, among other things because the system for distributing television rights determines that it will be this way. It is unique in Europe and because of this the Spanish league is one of the most boring in Europe.”

The television channels would beg to differ, as they regularly run adverts or open their coverage of matches from La Liga claiming it is the ‘best league in the world’ with clips of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi running in the background.

Real and Ronaldo under threat from Spanish wizard?

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An unusual headline in Spain’s El Mundo newspaper caught my eye this morning: “Real Madrid threatened by wizard.”

According to the respected conservative daily, the La Liga club has received a letter from the magician, whom it did not identify by name, warning that he has been contracted to cast a spell that would inflict injury on their Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

Reuters Sportswrap: World Cup qualifying special

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Join Owen Wyatt for our regular wrap of world sport. This week, it’s a World Cup qualifier special, as we consider the plight of Diego Maradona and the battle for golden tickets for South Africa 2010.

We particularly welcome comments, so if you’d like to critique Owen’s schoolboy fashion errors, please do…

Spain’s ’21st century gladiators’ do Merida proud

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Spain’s qualification for next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa has brought a welcome distraction to a nation suffering more than most of its European peers from the economic crisis.

Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Estonia put the European champions through as Group Five winners and Vicente del Bosque’s highly-fancied side will be competing in their ninth straight finals since 1978 and attempting to win the World Cup for the first time.

Villa, the Spanish goal machine, stuck in the Europa League

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It’s hard to believe Spain striker David Villa will not be playing in the Champions League again this season.

The Valencia frontman was in irresistible form against Belgium in a World Cup qualifier on Saturday when the European champions romped to a 5-0 victory in La Coruna.

Where does U.S. win over Spain rank in list of upsets?

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In the previous post, Simon Evans discussed where the U.S. go from here after their stunning win over Spain. Below Mike Collett looks at where the Confederations Cup semi-final victory ranks among shocks.

The debate is back on. Where does the United States’ shock 2-0 win over Spain in the Confederations Cup on Wednesday rank among the all-time great upsets.

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