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Raul to equal Hierro's Spanish appearance record

Spain captain Raul will equal Fernando Hierro's appearance record for a Spanish outfield player when he leads the team against Belgium in their World Cup qualifier today.

The 28-year-old striker will win his 89th cap for Spain in the Group Seven match in Brussels to match the record set by his former Real Madrid team-mate who retired from international football after the 2002 World Cup.

Goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta is the most capped Spanish player with 126 appearances between 1985 and 1998.

Raul, who recently set a new European Cup scoring record when he scored his 50th goal in a Champions League match against Olympiakos Piraeus, is also Spain's all-time leading scorer with 42 goals.

The Real Madrid player said that equalling Hierro's record would be the last thing on his mind when he takes to the pitch today.

"To be honest, all I'm thinking about now is helping the team earn six points from the two games against Belgium and San Marino," he told Spanish sports daily AS yesterday.

"I'm not worried about whether or not I eventually overtake Zubi (Zubizarreta), my only obsession is making sure we get to the World Cup in Germany."

Spain are in second place in Group Seven, two points behind Serbia & Montenegro, one ahead of Bosnia and three ahead of Belgium.

¤ Nigeria captain Jay-Jay Okocha says he will retire from international soccer next year. The Bolton Wanderers midfielder, capped 64 times, hopes to finish on a high at next year's World Cup finals in Germany. "If we make it then it will be my last World Cup and if we don't, then that is how I will end my international career," Okocha was quoted as saying by Nigerian newspapers yesterday. Nigeria must win against Zimbabwe in today's Group Four qualifier and hope that leaders Angola fail to beat Rwanda in Kigali if they are to qualify.

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