With his shorter hair and beard, Sergio Ramos has a new look to match his new position in the heart of Spain's defence alongside Gerard Piqué – and now he wants a winners' medal to go with it. "I've already had the luck to be European and world champion with long hair and as a right-back," the Real Madrid CF defender told UEFA.com as he looked forward to Sunday's UEFA EURO 2012 final. Win or lose against Italy, he believes "every Spaniard can feel proud" but it is victory, and a place in history, that Ramos has his eyes on.
UEFA.com: What was it like for you scoring that cheeky, chipped penalty in the shoot-out against Portugal after missing one in the UEFA Champions League semi-final against FC Bayern München?
Ramos: There's so much talk and so much stuff written that damages your pride as a professional [and] maybe people don't value that we are also human beings and have feelings like anybody else. Maybe for myself it was a personal challenge to show everybody that I like to take responsibility and that I am fine in terms of morale. I was the first to take the responsibility to take a penalty and I'm very happy that all of the team's hard work and sacrifice has been rewarded by playing in this final.
UEFA.com: Spain have conceded just one goal en route to the final. How do you see your partnership with Gerard Piqué?
Ramos: It has been evolving. As I've said since the first game against Italy, little by little we've been getting along better; the synchronisation and the way we complement each other has become better. Even if you perform very well at your club, if there's no compatibility together, your performance will drop. If you shine individually, it is because of the collective work and in that particular aspect, we are happy with all of the defensive line – not only myself and Gerard, but also the full-backs, and the work done by every team-mate who steps on to the pitch.
UEFA.com: You have already faced Italy but will it be a different match with it being the final?
Ramos: Maybe yes, maybe no. You never know. Of course every match is a whole different 'world'. You can't stay attached to the past or to what happened in the last match, because you never know how you will be, how your team will be, what plans or tactics the opposition will have. So it's always unpredictable. We are aware of the team we will be facing, a team who've been world champions four times. It's a great Italy team after all they've been through – bad times and good times, like everybody else. We know what we're up against and we will have difficult moments because they deserve to be there for all they've done, as they showed against Germany.
UEFA.com: There has been a lot of talk about Spain playing with a 'false' No9. What do you think about it and does it affect the team's playing style or not?
Ramos: I don't think it's affecting the game. It's precisely the opposite.
It brings another possibility. When you have to plan to face other opponents, I think it's to the advantage of Spain to have such a rich amount of options. I think the coach knows every player to perfection. He knows how to get the best from each and every one of us, and to get the best from the team at any time. So having the option to play with a traditional centre-forward like we've done many times before, or to play with a 'false 9', brings a lot of variety and gives you other playing options and another kind of movement on the pitch.
UEFA.com: You've made history by becoming only the second team after Germany to reach three consecutive finals and now you can make even more history, by winning three consecutive major titles. Would defeat be even harder, for missing out on a unique feat?
Ramos: I hope not. As I've said in recent days, if I'm not mistaken, playing three consecutive finals is something [only Germany] have done before. People must value that, all the years of hard work and sacrifice for this national team to reach this level. However, besides winning, what makes the difference is that lasting impression that will stay in everybody's minds.
I don't think people will evaluate our work on the basis of what happens on Sunday, whether we win or lose. Every Spaniard can feel proud because their national team have done everything, we've done a wonderful job. I hope I'm mistaken, but it will be very, very difficult. We hope that we, as footballers, will have that calm on Sunday. I hope we can win. Otherwise we'd still expect to return home with heads high and proud of the job done.
UEFA.com: If Spain win the title, would you go into the history books as the best ever?
Ramos: Well, of course the numbers and statistics would be there. To beat those [statistics], you would have to do a lot, and yes, that would be difficult. But I can tell you that in terms of world history, it would be difficult to repeat something like that.
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