If Spain are to retain their UEFA European Under-21 Championship crown this summer then Julen Lopetegui's squad will need to display the same levels of "personality, character and conviction" that helped them reach the finals.
That requirement is particularly pertinent given the makeup of their group, which contains two recent U21 tournament winners – Germany and the Netherlands – and Russia, making their first finals appearance in 14 years. As difficult as Group B undoubtedly is, Lopetegui, who succeeded Luis Milla as coach in August, is taking heart from the qualities his squad showed in booking their place in Israel.
"The team have been brilliant," Lopetegui, whose side beat Denmark 8-1 on aggregate in the play-offs after topping their qualifying round group, told UEFA.com. "They respected our style of play in all the matches, irrespective of any difficulties we encountered, what pitch we were playing on, the opponent we were facing or the different conditions.
"That made us competitive and made us win matches in a brilliant way," added the 46-year-old former Spain goalkeeper. "The team have a lot of personality to deal with difficult moments and matches. In the key moments of matches, when you're really playing for the result, the team have shown a lot of personality, character and conviction. So we are happy with how qualification went and happy to be in Israel."
To hear more from Lopetegui, including why different U21 generations should not be compared and how his squad are developing, watch the video above.
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