Andrés Iniesta accepted his second Carlsberg Man of the Match Award at UEFA EURO 2012 with dignity, a recognition of Croatia's exceptional efforts and a gentle warning that there is more to come from both him and Spain.
The FC Barcelona midfielder was elected the top performer of his country's opening group stage match, and produced another award-winning display against Croatia to ease the reigning champions through to the last eight. He capped a night of persistent quality, irrepressible creativity and energy with a terrific run and assist for Jesús Navas with two minutes remaining to settle a tight Group C decider in Gdansk. His view was Spain had shown a classic tournament-winning attitude.
"Getting through to the quarter-finals like this is doing what teams who win trophies do," he said. "It was a tiring, tough game against a great Croatia side. They took the ball off us, they took the game to us and had chances to score. But we are through, we are relieved to have achieved our objective and as far as my individual award goes, I'm happy that people value what I do and I hope that we get even better from here on in."
When a relieved Vicente del Bosque weighed up the performance of the man who is emerging as Spain's key player in the tournament, he highlighted the 28-year-old's ability to bring something unique to the squad.
"Overall this wasn't a performance of brilliance, but we dominated and Andrés has this quality to impose his actions on a game where we are bogged down," said Del Bosque. "He does distinct, special things and tonight that helped us greatly."
The one thing Iniesta did not want to do was allow his creative moment in giving Spain their goal, and group victory, fuel the media debate about whether the holders should or should not opt for an outright No9 striker. The breakthrough only came when Fernando Torres had departed the pitch and was created by a lovely through ball from substitute Cesc Fàbregas. It was merely 'Business as usual' as far as Iniesta was concerned.
"This debate about a striker is an external one, not something we the players talk about," he said. "The key thing is that we do our individual jobs with quality and we know what our team mate is about to do. We've scored with Torres in the team and we’ve scored, and also created, a goal, with Cesc in the team.
"Spain is a group of many different characteristics and the vital thing is that we have used that variety and quality to get to the quarter-finals."
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