When Vicente del Bosque replaced Luis Aragonés after UEFA EURO 2008 he had the responsibility of continuing the long-awaited success of his predecessor. The Spain coach has done that and more, however.
Not only has he led La Roja to FIFA World Cup glory in 2010 and into the final of UEFA EURO 2012, he has overseen the continued implementation of a playing philosophy which has provided a blueprint for the rest of the world to follow.
In this exclusive interview with UEFA.com he speaks about Spain's transition from nearly men into serial winners, the "balanced type of football" played by Italy and the similarities between the respective finalists' EURO campaigns.
UEFA.com: How would you describe the process Spain have gone through in recent years which has led to so much success?
Vicente del Bosque: Spain have enjoyed the best period of their football history in the last few years, what with the work that's being done at club and youth level. [We are] a country that is constantly advancing in terms of facilities, in terms of coach education and replacing foreigners with young players.
Others also come and train here – that shows that borders are disappearing in the world of football. There is a generation of players at the moment who understand what this country is: a country that has progressed, a country that is modern and that has put 'complicated ways' in the past.
UEFA.com: Are you proud of what you are achieving and that many youngsters across the world want to copy Spain's style of play?
Del Bosque: The certainty that our football, the football of Spain, is recognised, that's very important to us – perhaps more important than the successes and the joy that you can create. Football hasn't always been appreciated, and luckily our football is appreciated now, at all levels of society. That includes having players who are role models for young people.
UEFA.com: What are your thoughts on Italy?
Del Bosque: They play a very balanced type of football, they handle things well. They defend well with a lot of people, but at the same time they have a lot of attacking options, with two relatively fixed players up front: [Antonio] Cassano and [Mario] Balotelli.
They are supported well by [Claudio] Marchisio and [Riccardo] Montolivo. They have two players in midfield, [Andrea] Pirlo and [Daniele] De Rossi, who kind of dictate their football. They have a right-back in [Christian] Maggio who has a lot of depth [in his football]. They are bit similar to us. They can press very well. It will be hard to avoid their pressure, but we also have qualities to know how to move in these situations. I have the impression that this will be a very balanced final.
UEFA.com: Did Italy press from the front against Germany more so than they normally do?
Del Bosque: Yes, they [also did that] against us in the first game. There are a lot of parallels between Italy and Spain: we were in the same group, in either the quarter-finals or semi-finals we went through on penalties, and Pirlo and [Sergio] Ramos scored Panenka-style penalties. You have to like both teams. We both deserve to be finalists.
UEFA.com: Has the general concept advanced in terms of what you can do before and during a game in terms of the way you play?
Del Bosque: What we do has an effect on all 23 players, because all of them are at our disposal. We want the best for them, but unfortunately you have to choose 11, and they are playing in support [of an idea] of what we think is best. When Sunday comes we hope to act boldly at the start of and during the game. Games change, games develop and there are moments where you have to make changes that will hopefully help you win.
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