WORLD CUP : Spain rebound from a goal down

Stuttgart, June 20 :

This Spain team attacks with Brazilian flair, defends with Italian grit and works as hard as the Germans. Spain is emerging as a serious candidate for the World Cup title after rebounding from a goal down to beat Tunisia 3-1 on Monday.

Spain’s unbeaten streak under coach Luis Aragones is now at 24 games and the young squad advanced to the second round from Group H. It was the last of the middle games of the first round. While Spain is through, the North Africans must beat Ukraine in their last match if they hope to move on. Substitute Raul Gonzalez and attacking partner Fernando Torres turned the game around in a six-minute span after Tunisia took an early lead on a counterattack. Torres added a penalty kick goal in the 90th.

“I knew it was going to be a difficult match,” Aragones said. “The first goal upset us. We have a very young team. We had a lot of chances, we deserved to win. But we were nervous.”

Aragones fielded the same starting lineup that routed Ukraine 4-0 in Spain’s best World Cup opener. Then Tunisia stunned the Spaniards in the eighth minute when Jawhar Menari scored. Striker Ziad Jaziri set up the goal after winning a duel with Carles Puyol, dribbling through three defenders in the box and lifting the ball to Menari. The striker’s first shot was blocked by Iker Casillas, but Menari put in the rebound.

Raul, the former captain now coming off the bench, scored in the 71st minute, and Torres poked in the second in the 77th after being set up by substitute Cesc Fabregas. “We scored three goals and we came back with a result. It was very difficult,” Fabregas said. Torres earned the penalty kick after he was dragged down in the area, and his shot went in off goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel.

Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre will have to restore confidence in his squad to have any chance of beating Ukraine, which rebounded from the opening loss to Spain to beat Saudi Arabia earlier on Monday.

Lemerre, a former France coach, said his team “had victory in sight” but lost concentration. “Just at the moment when Spain started to buckle we dropped our guard,” he said.