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Despite securing an impressive 3-0 win away to Athletic Club, Werder Bremen defender Naldo insisted there was a long way to go before the Bundesliga side could even begin to start dreaming of a place in this season's UEFA Europa League final.
Having already secured their passage through to Friday's round of 32 draw prior to their encounter with Los Leones at San Mamés, Werder advanced as section winners thanks to an impressive first-half display which produced goals from Claudio Pizarro, Naldo and Markus Rosenberg. It was the second time Thomas Schaaf's side had defeated the Bilbao club in Group L and Naldo told uefa.com that preparation was the key to success. "We knew that as the home team their strength here lay in pressurising their opponents so the important thing was to neutralise them as a threat," the Brazilian said. "We came out of the blocks very strongly and we didn't allow them space in which to work."
A regular feature for Bremen since signing from CA Juventude in 2005, centre-back Naldo was on the scoresheet in last term's UEFA Cup final loss to FC Shakhtar Donetsk. With this season's inaugural UEFA Europa League final taking place in nearby Hamburg, the 27-year-old knows it would be a special achievement for the men in green and white to go all the way again. "We definitely want to get there again as the final this time is in Hamburg," he said. "Having said that we know from experience we will face a very strong rival in the next round – last season it was AC Milan at the same stage – so we have to concentrate on our task and take things step by step."
Meanwhile, Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz said there were no excuses for his team's first-half slump, and that the important thing was to use the defeat as a learning experience as they prepare to discover their fate in the round of 32. "It was a game where we could have won a nice prize for ourselves; we were in the last group match already qualified and it should have been one to enjoy but it turned into a very difficult night for us," the 28-year-old told uefa.com. "We had some injury problems and had to bring in some youth-team players but we also had an obligation to stand up to the battle. We've gone through as the second-placed team though and achieved our objective."
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