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Top scorer for Sevilla FC en route to the UEFA Europa League final, Kevin Gameiro is relishing the chance to fire his side to glory against SL Benfica next Wednesday. The France forward has struck five times in the competition since joining from Paris Saint-Germain last summer, and he vowed that he and his team-mates "will not be going to Turin just to watch Benfica play".
Speaking to UEFA.com, the 27-year-old also reflected on his first term in Spain, Sevilla coach Unai Emery and the intense emotions produced when Stéphane Mbia's added-time goal sent the Andalusian club past Valencia CF in the last four.
UEFA.com: How has your campaign been so far?
Kevin Gameiro: It's been a great season in the Europa League, which hasn't been easy at all. We had a difficult tie against Betis [in the round of 16] but managed to do well in the return leg in order to qualify. It was the same against Porto [in the quarter-finals]: we lost the first leg and won the second. We then had a very tough game at Valencia and Stéphane Mbia scored in the last minute. You could say it was a stroke of luck, of fate, that got us to the final.
UEFA.com: How have you adapted since joining Sevilla last summer?
Gameiro: It's been a very good season, I've scored 21 goals. It wasn't an easy season though. When I arrived, I needed to adapt to Spanish culture and football. I tried to adapt quite quickly, even though I suffered some injuries halfway through. Right now I feel physically fit, I feel good and I'm helping the team score goals.
UEFA.com: Have you changed your style of play since joining?
Gameiro: No, I haven't adapted my game to the Spanish league, because I think I possess the characteristics to play in this league and that's why I chose it rather than another. I am a small and fast player, quick – very quick, even. I am comfortable with the ball and that's allowed me to develop very well here.
UEFA.com: What is your role in the team?
Gameiro: The most important thing for a striker is to score goals, whether it's from one metre, one centimetre, ten metres or 20 – a goal is a goal. I don't care if I score from a scissor kick or with my knee. As for my most important task, it's what the coach tells us before every game: for us strikers, the most important thing for us and the team is for our goalkeeper not to concede. The first line of defence is the forwards, and that's what's made the difference this season for Sevilla.
UEFA.com: Sevilla very nearly missed out on a place in the final, of course.
Gameiro: Yes, the return leg against Valencia was a very difficult game. I think we were a bit lost in the first half, and we were dominated during that game. That wasn't easy. The players on the bench wanted to step in and help the team score that one goal. Then, like the coach said in his team talk, we were two goals up and the most important thing was to score one more. That goal came at the very end, and it is great to experience moments like those. It's cruel for your opponents, but when you experience a moment like that, when you end up as winners, it's wonderful.
UEFA.com: How did you feel when Stéphane Mbia scored in added time?
Gameiro: When Stéphane scored, there was a feeling of joy, of happiness, because we knew it was over – it was ten or 20 seconds before the end. It was wonderful. Those are moments you will experience maybe once in your career and you have to enjoy them fully.
UEFA.com: Can you tell us a little about your coach Unai Emery?
Gameiro: He's someone who is very passionate. He lives for football, he experiences the games like a fan – he's even more than passionate. For me, it's the first time I've seen a coach who lives the games so fully. He's totally committed to it, even during the week; it's not only during the game. In training, he's fully into it, and that's what gives us that determination to overcome things when we're behind, or when we have to score important goals.
UEFA.com: Do you think Sevilla will be outsiders in the final?
Gameiro: Yes. We know it's a great season for Benfica as well. They've had a great campaign, they've won their league, and they knocked Juventus out which was not an easy task, especially in Turin. But it's a one-off game and anything is possible. The most important thing is to give everything and not regret anything at the end – to give everything, to be 100% fit and then see what happens.
UEFA.com: How will you approach the final?
Gameiro: Let's just say we'll give everything from the first minute to the last. As I said, we will enjoy the moment and try to win the final, because we will not be going to Turin just to watch Benfica play. The most important thing is to give everything and win this trophy. We know that it's very important for our club: they've won it twice before and we will try to win the third one.
UEFA.com: What do you expect from Benfica?
Gameiro: That they will give everything, just like us. They won't give up. Last year they reached the final and lost. It will be revenge for them to try and win. We'll see how it goes and won't think too much about it. We will work together with the team and the coach this week and look at how they play and analyse their game.
UEFA.com: What else are you expecting from the final?
Gameiro: I expect a great atmosphere in a stadium that I don't know yet. It will be my first final as a player and it will be exceptional. But we shouldn't think about it too much – we must prepare well and not put too much pressure on ourselves. We will give 100% and try to get the win, and hope to be able to lift the trophy at the end.
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