As Spain edge ever closer to their Group C opener against Italy, coach Vicente del Bosque describes the atmosphere within his squad as "fantastic," although his players remain only too aware of the huge task they face as they attempt to defend their European title.
UEFA.com:How satisfied have you been with Spain's preparations?
Vicente del Bosque: Well, we are happy. After a long season in the Spanish league with many matches to deal with and our big clubs being involved in competition right up until the end of the season, it didn't allow us to have a normal preparation, but we are not unhappy. The positive thing about the situation is that it allowed us to try out more players who will be with us in the future. In general we have to be satisfied with how everything went.
UEFA.com: How is the atmosphere within the group?
Del Bosque: Very good. It's a great stimulus for the whole team to play in such an important competition.
For those players who are experienced and who have already achieved a lot, it's still a motivation. We will see how the results go but as of this moment the atmosphere is fantastic.
UEFA.com: How do you react as a coach to losing players such as Carles Puyol and David Villa to injury before the tournament?
Del Bosque: We know we have to compensate for the loss of these players but there are others who can perform well [in those positions] and we have to open the door to them and give them a chance. [Puyol and Villa] can't be with us but we have to think as practically as possible in relation to their absence.
UEFA.com: Is it special to be facing Italy in the opening game?
Del Bosque: Facing any of the other 15 teams would have been a difficult prospect; everyone is trying to be successful here. We have the maximum of respect for Italy with whom we have a great rivalry. We know that Italian football is among the best in the world and that their players fight very hard. They have gone through a change with a new generation but they still have a few experienced players mixed with the new ones. We have to try to be at our best and I believe we can be.
UEFA.com: Many people expect you to win every game by a big margin. Is that expectation a burden or a motivating factor?
Del Bosque: First of all, it brings a lot of responsibility, the responsibility to defend the title we won in 2008 and to represent our [FIFA World Cup] win in 2010. This time we are facing a new challenge and that should act as a stimulus for us to perform at the highest level in this tournament.
UEFA.com: Do you think that Spain will win the Euros?
Del Bosque: We have a chance but it will be very difficult. We are facing big opponents. This is a very open and short competition with a maximum of six matches so anything can happen. It's not only the big favourites but also the so-called 'smaller' teams who can win it; look at Greece in 2004. You also need a bit of luck to be successful.
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