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Football: You're just like San Marino; Spain's rising star Reyes pays Scots team the ultimate insult.

Byline: By Colin Duncan

SCOTLAND'S current standing under Berti Vogts was put starkly into perspective last night when Spanish superstar Jose Antonio Reyes compared them with San Marino.

The tiny principality have long been the whipping boys of European football and are regarded by the major nations as little more than a joke outfit.

How worrying and embarrassing then that Reyes brackets Scotland in the same category as lowly San Marino.

Spain have been paired with the tiny country situated at the northern tip of Italy in their qualifying group for the 2006World Cup.

And Reyes believes tomorrow night's friendly with the Scots in Valencia will be the perfect dress rehearsal ahead of their clash with the minnows later this year.

Reyes has been in blistering form this season for Arsenal,bagging four goals in the the Premiership leaders' first four games.

But despite struggling to contain his joy at how well the new campaign has begun, Reyes insists his focus is fully geared towards facing Scotland ahead of Spain's opening qualifier with Bosnia next Wednesday.

He said: 'It has been a great start to the season but now though I must concentrate on Spain and this friendly will be a good test for us.

'I want to become a regular for my country and play my part in the qualifiers and doing well against Scotland will help my chances.

'The manager has spoken to us about Scotland and he says they play the same way as San Marino, who are in our qualifying group.

'This will be the ideal preparation for us because they play the exact same long-ball game.

'Scotland also have very similar players to San Marino - they are strong and physical.

'This is the type of game we will face in the qualifiers from San Marino and also Lithuania so this friendly will begood for us.'

Reyes has been a revelation for Arsenal this term after initially taking time to settle in London following his pounds 15million move from Seville last January.

The youngster, who celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday, is a certain starter against Scotland tomorrow as new coach Luis Aragones attempts to reshape the team he inherited from Inaki Saez, who was sacked after a disappointing Euro 2004.

And if Reyes has brought any of his Premership form to Valencia, Scotland's beleaguered defenders are liable to spend much of the match chasing shadows.

Reyes said: 'I've been playing well for Arsenal this season and scoring goal in the Premiership, which is one of the best leagues in the world.

'I feel happy in England now and hopefully this game has come at the right time for me.

'I didn't have a great start to my career at Arsenal after my move from Seville and I struggled to adjust to the change.

'I was only 20 when I signed for them and it wasn't easy moving to another country at such a young age.

'But I now love life in London, I'm with a great club and my form has improved.

'I would love to score one or two goals against Scotland as that would be a nice way to celebrate my birthday.'

The inspirational form of Reyes mustbe a major worry for Vogts and his side but as well as the young Gunners striker, coach Aragones has some quite frightening firepower at his disposal.

The Spanish boss can also call on Raul, Fernando Morientes, Raul Tamaudo and the highly-promising Fernando Torres.

That illustrious list could help spell the end for Vogts if they perform anywhere near their capabilities.

Throw in the fact that they have a major point to prove to their new coach ahead of their opening World Cup qualifier and following a dreadful showing at Euro 2004 then Scotland's monumental task is made even harder.

Spain are also feeling the pressure at the moment due to their early exit from Portugal in the summer and that's why Reyes is adamant they won't miss this first opportunity to put things right and get the new boss off to a flying start.

He added: 'There are a few players in our squad with a point to prove to the new manager.

'We all want to be part of taking Spain to the World Cup in Germany.

'We are also under pressure after our poor showing at Euro 2004. We have failed at big tournaments in the past and we must show we are ready this time.

'I wasn't picked for the European Championship. I was disappointed at the time maybe it will help me in the long run.

'I had the whole summer off and as a result I feel a lot fresher and fitter.

'We have to be at our best against Scotland and show the new coach whatwe can all do.'


REYES HACKLES: Jose Antonio Reyes has insulted Scots by comparing them to San Marino; LIFE'S A STRUGGLE: Scotland flopped against Hungary, left, and despite a Scott Booth goal even had to battle to beat San Marino, right
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 2, 2004
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