Juan Mata called it mission accomplished after Spain attained their first target of a semi-final spot from Group B before going on to detail their next objectives in the tournament.
Article top media content
After Spain's thoroughbreds won at a canter against Ukraine on Sunday, two-goal Juan Mata complimented his team-mates on a job well done before sizing up the next hurdle in their way.
Speaking to UEFA.com in the wake of the 3-0 victory in Herning, Valencia CF attacker Mata hailed the consummate display which had ensured Spain's progress to the semi-finals as Group B winners. "We did a good job," said the 23-year-old. "We needed to win to finish top of the group and we played well again – it was a complete performance."
With Spain's initial target of the last four achieved, Mata went on to redefine their ambitions. "We are delighted, first for achieving our first objective of winning the group. Now we move on to our next goal, which is to win the semi-final and qualify for the Olympics," said the No10, whose goals – a simple tenth-minute finish, followed by a cool 72nd-minute spot kick which he himself had earned – book-ended the triumph.
"We wanted to win, even though a draw would have been enough. The victory adds to the confidence gained from the first two matches. I think we played good stuff." With a seven-point haul against England, the Czech Republic and Ukraine proof of their fortitude at this UEFA European Under-21 Championship, Luis Milla's men will be favourites for Wednesday's Viborg semi-final versus Belarus.
Yet Mata refused to discount the opposition, even though Belarus sneaked into second place in Group A after suffering two defeats in three matches. "They made it because they deserved to," he said. "They had a strong group. We respect them." After explaining that he also holds fellow semi-finalists the Czechs and Switzerland in high esteem, the versatile forward emphasised that Spain "don't think we have won it already".
Striker Adrián, who slid in Spain's second goal in the 27th minute after great work by Thiago Alcántara and Martín Montoya, also warned against discounting the Belarusians prematurely. "Maybe they have a different reputation from ours," said the RC Deportivo La Coruña man, "but I certainly don't think it will be an easy match. They are in the semi-finals because they've done their job. It's a semi-final, a massive game, so we have to regroup and we need to be 100% to win."
Adrián's close-range effort took him to three goals, as the competition's leading marksman, so it was from a position of some seniority that he surveyed the Spanish campaign so far. "We try to play with the same philosophy – youth teams, Under-21s, seniors. We do the same and I would say we do it well. We need to continue like this and we can't relax, not for a second, because to reach the final of a European Championship you have to keep up your level in every match."