A: We have a great responsibility after winning Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010, and in addition there are five Spanish teams still alive in the Champions League and Europa League. The season is really tough but we will ask the players for one final effort, an ‘extra-time’ in terms of motivation and spirit. A player needs this added drive for a tournament like the Euros.
A: We have a very intelligent group of guys. They know everything about football; they also know that the career of a player is really short, so we must treat each competition with the utmost urgency, with Euro 2012 being the next one. I don’t say this exclusively about the players who are in their 30s, but also the young players who must seize their opportunity.
A: Yes, obviously this is an added inspiration. If no one has achieved this, it’s because it’s very difficult. I think we have very good players, who have already accomplished a lot, and we have to think about things like this, but of course we are conscious that it will be really hard.
A: I think you are right. It’s not certain, and we can’t be complacent, but the results point in this direction so we have to continue the trajectory. A while ago it was normal for Spanish teams to be among the best in Europe – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Deportivo, Sevilla, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid were all able to win the big trophies. But the national team was not a point of reference as such. Now, though, the national team is setting an example – not for everybody, but for many – so we can presume we are doing things well. The Spanish federation has done a great job at La Ciudad del Futbol. They decided that they should not just be concerned with preparing players but also giving the coaches the best tactical training. And for that we needed our own school. It has been very good for us.
A: It’s very even. We can claim that team X or Y is at a lower level, but we know that on the pitch every match is very difficult to play. We start against Italy, who have traditionally been very difficult for us and who always know their roles perfectly. They have recently been rejuvenated and they have some specific characteristics that they have changed in the past few years. We had a warning in Bari, where we lost a friendly 2-1, which should have taught us how to play against them, and not to be complacent.
A: No, but it's true that the first three points are very important. If you start with a win you are already close to qualification.
A: Yes, the style of a team is always determined by the midfield and they have Andrea Pirlo. When you have Pirlo in the squad you know you are going to play around his characteristics. He is the main man in the midfield, he gives the team the tempo, the rhythm they need. And then they have Alberto Aquilani, Antonio Nocerino, both of Milan... they have very good creative players.
A: The Irish are impossible to beat without putting in the maximum effort. They give everything in every match, with a special sense of patriotism. They think like a big team, and they bring a lot of support to each game. Their football is not the most beautiful to watch, but they have the most heart. They will be very hard to beat.
A: Their players are all at top European clubs. They are usually daring, they aren't scared of anything and in the last few years their performance at Euros and World Cups have been pretty good.
A: Honestly we are not thinking about this. Our first job is to think about Italy, to find a way to play against them. Thinking about the second phase is pointless.
A: Yes, but there are also other teams. The Netherlands were second in the last World Cup. They were superb in qualification too. They have a really high level, have continued the good work they did at the World Cup. And there are other really strong teams such as France, who have returned to their status as one of the top teams. We have to face the French in qualification for the 2014 World Cup. Also England, in spite of the recent controversies and trauma, are really one of the top teams. Portugal have risen in the FIFA rankings and have some excellent players, they are always difficult.
A: The Germans came to see us at the Ciudad del Futbol and they were very polite with us. We have a lot of admiration for them too. Joachim Loew has a very good relationship with Fernando Hierro (the former Spanish Federation sporting director, now at Malaga), so our relationship with them is very good. They have managed to retain their traditional style of football while adding some new things, as they showed at the last World Cup. Creative players like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil and the other young players they are recruiting.
A: I would rather forget about the so-called hardness of that Dutch team – I would rather remember a side that has always provided a model for everyone around Europe. Two or three actions in that match didn’t correspond with this team but anyone, at certain times, can do these kinds of things. I would rather say that the Dutch team play good football, an orthodox style that had been a model in Europe.
A: Absolutely not! If all our teams get to finals that would be brilliant! It will benefit us because our players will be positive, happy and with a great sense of self-esteem and confidence. I would love to have all-Spanish finals on May 9 and 19 in the Europa League and Champions League. And if so we would give the players time off to relax afterwards. Also, Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona play the Copa del Rey final on May 25 – with almost entirely Spanish squads – and we will take care of them too. From May 31 everyone will be focused on the national team with June 10 the target of our intensive preparations.
A: That depends on what happens with the club competitions, but we will use our Olympic squad if we are short.
A: Possibly. We would like some of the Olympic squad to come to the Euros, but it will be impossible for everyone. The competition is fierce as it is, so we will take players who are fresh, with energy and enthusiasm to help us defend our title.
A: Everybody is helping him and he is very optimistic. We have 40 days to make a decision anyway, and he is on track.
A: Yes, I suppose he has earned it. We will wait for him but we need to see him in action in the pitch, with a ball. I don’t even know if he will get into the team because they are competing well and it could be difficult. If he can be of use to us, he will come – there is not a symbolic issue.
A: There is so much competition for that position because there are five or six players who have a chance. We will choose whoever we feel is best for the team.
A: I have no fear of any unpleasant episodes. I fear for those who will lose because they will be disappointed, frustrated, but for otherwise I’m not worried.
A: Yes, of course this can happen, but I don’t know for sure. I have all the names in my head but it is impossible to take them all. In principle there are no surprises – it would not be a surprise if one of the U21 or Olympic team came along, likewise someone who has done well in the league.