For the first time since the 1999 UEFA Futsal EURO final loss to Russia, Spain are playing in a final tournament without five-time European champion Kike at the back, but he has a ready-made replacement.
Aged 30 and part of the squad at the last three EURO triumphs, Ortiz had long been the man to rotate with Kike, so the international retirement of the great Murcia FS defender last year was unlikely to disrupt Spain too much. Indeed, Ortiz has played a crucial role in their run to the semi-finals in Antwerp, but on Thursday will be unavailable against old rivals Russia after receiving his second yellow card of the championship in Tuesday's 4-0 quarter-final defeat of Slovenia. Still, the Interviú Madrid man will be willing his team-mates on from the stands and spoke to UEFA.com about his ban and what Spain need to do to better Russia.
UEFA.com: How does it feel to miss the semi-final?
Ortiz: I've calmed down a bit since receiving that yellow card against Slovenia. At the end of the day it's me who will miss one of the most important games of the year and there is no solving that now.
UEFA.com: What did you make of the performance against Slovenia?
Ortiz: We played a great game. Maybe in attack we didn't have the fluidity we had in past tournaments but we were solid as a team in defence and in general did things well with clear ideas. Winning 4-0 is a very good result.
UEFA.com: Russia are the 17-goal top scorers here. How will Spain keep out their pivots Eder Lima and Cirilo without you?
Ortiz: The coach will have to see who will take charge as one of the pivots. I imagine that Aicardo, [Sergio] Lozano and José Ruiz will be the ones to fill in. Every one of us knows what we have to do.
Cirilo is a left-footed player who almost always turns in order to strike with his left. He is very strong and if you get too close to him he can turn you. He's a great player. Lima is very similar but perhaps a little lazier when it comes to defending. Instead of turning to the left, he can do it to the right. They are two players with very similar characteristics.
We have spoken a lot about how Russia break out in the 1-3 formation with Robinho as the last player. I don't think they will use that system against us, however, as we have very quick players. It would be a big risk for them.
UEFA.com: Spain, Russia, Italy and Portugal: the four favourites have made the semi-finals …
Ortiz: It's strange, there is normally a surprise or two in a tournament like this, but here the four favourites are in the semis and we'll all fight to get to the big showpiece.
UEFA.com: Spain started with a 3-3 draw against Croatia – is it getting harder to win these tournaments?
Ortiz: We are having a few setbacks in this competition and we see that, the more time passes, the harder it is to win a tournament like this. Players have improved a lot and the teams are physically very strong. Year after year they are improving tactically too. We have also had a few problems with injuries.
The great strength of our team is its mentality. We have a winning mentality. The players who came before us left a really good legacy and we are going to try to maintain that.
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