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Mind over matter as holders Spain prepare

Published: Thursday 7 June 2012, 19.59CET
Many of the Spain squad had long, successful seasons but that will not play a part according to Juan Mata, who said that: "Pride and hunger to win are a greater force than physical tiredness".
by Graham Hunter
from Gniewino
Mind over matter as holders Spain prepare
Juan Mata said that fatigue will not be an issue for Spain at UEFA EURO 2012 ©Getty Images
 
Published: Thursday 7 June 2012, 19.59CET

Mind over matter as holders Spain prepare

Many of the Spain squad had long, successful seasons but that will not play a part according to Juan Mata, who said that: "Pride and hunger to win are a greater force than physical tiredness".

Juan Mata is one of the players in the Spain squad who, in total, take 40 winners' medals from their domestic seasons to the UEFA European Championship this summer.

It is an impressive figure that is indicative of how dominant Spain are, and not simply at the level of the national team that are here in Poland as reigning world and European champions. Beyond talent there is now a determined resolve to the character of a top Spanish international – something which owes its roots to the changes encouraged under Luis Aragonés's reign and which has blossomed over the last four years.

Perhaps UEFA EURO 2012 will offer Mata the chance to show that he has the credentials to make an impact, just as he has done at club level. His medals are from the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup, both harvested from what had threatened to be a barren season with Chelsea FC. He also has a FIFA World Cup winners' medal but, however golden it is, it may look less shiny because Mata was given so little game time by Vicente del Bosque two years ago in South Africa.

This time, having also won Chelsea's player of the year award, the little playmaker looks like someone with the skill, confidence, experience and, above all, talent, to lift Spain in the absence of fellow Asturian David Villa. However, the question remains as to whether the herculean efforts with Chelsea will affect what is left in his tank for Spain.

"It's been a really demanding season for many of us, with loads of minutes in a variety of different competitions," said the 25-year-old striker. "But we are all prepared to hit our maximum form. The simple fact is that pride and hunger to win are a greater force than physical tiredness. That won't be our problem."

Scoring might. No one has more goals for Spain than Villa and if any of Del Bosque's little on-pitch lieutenants, among them Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, Jesús Navas and David Silva, fail to fire then it is feasible that La Roja's opponents might be able to smother them. Mata has another view. He and his Chelsea team-mate Fernando Torres share an intuitive understanding on and off the pitch and want to hit the net in search of a third consecutive international trophy for Spain.

"This is a squad which has goalscorers outside the group of forwards and that might be a perfect compensation for the loss of David Villa," he said. "Look around to see Torres, Álvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente and you know they are capable of scoring for us. Torres is one of the great centre-forwards and he'll be a vital component for us at this EURO. He got back to his level thanks to the massive self-belief he posseses added to his natural ability. Certainly I've always tried to tell him that he was not only going to go to the tournament but that he'd be important. I've learned a lot from him and he certainly deserves to be here."

The words are good. Now all Spain need from Mata are the goals.

Last updated: 28/06/12 14.49CET

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