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'Nervous tension' readying Russia for Spain test

Published: Wednesday 5 June 2013, 19.00CET
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui wants his players to "enjoy the way we play football" when they open their Group B bid against a Russia side in "relaxed and responsible" mood.
by Santi Retortillo & Oleg Sokol
from Tel Aviv & Jerusalem
'Nervous tension' readying Russia for Spain test
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui addresses the assembled media on Wednesday ©Saúl Ramos Magdaleno

Tournament statistics

SpainRussia

Goals scored12
 
2
Attempts on target32
 
9
Attempts off target38
 
17
Corners26
 
6
Fouls committed49
 
47
Yellow cards9
 
12
Red Cards0
2

Media services

Published: Wednesday 5 June 2013, 19.00CET

'Nervous tension' readying Russia for Spain test

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui wants his players to "enjoy the way we play football" when they open their Group B bid against a Russia side in "relaxed and responsible" mood.

Defending champions and unbeaten in qualifying, Spain were in understandably optimistic mood ahead of their Group B opener against Russia on Thursday. Spearheaded by a host of senior internationals, Julen Lopetegui's side are sure to provide a stern test for Russia, who are without star player Alan Dzagoev but brimming with "nervous tension" ahead of their Under-21 finals opener in Jerusalem.

We are feeling good – we have a young group with a great mentality. Let's enjoy the way we play football
Julen Lopetegui
It's no coincidence that people in Russia say the tougher, the better. When everything is calm it is bad
Nikolai Pisarev

Julen Lopetegui, Spain coach
It's a short competition – you cannot make a mistake. The first match against Russia is the most important as we want to start with a victory. We are facing a side who are very well prepared and we will need to be at our best. We are feeling good – we have a young group with a great mentality. Let's enjoy the way we play football.

I do not want to talk about being favourites – we just want to do well in the tournament. We have great respect for all the countries involved. [Álvaro, Alberto Moreno and Daniel Carvajal] have come to the tournament because they are fit. However, we want to remember those who took part in qualifying but are now at home and not here. Russia qualified with some great results without Alan Dzagoev – they are a great team.

2013 qualifying (including play-off)
P10 W9 D1 L0 F35 A3

Play-off result
Spain 5-0 Denmark
Denmark 1-3 Spain (agg: 8-1)

Team news
Lopetegui confirmed that all 23 players are in good shape for Thursday but said he would "not decide the starting lineup for Russia" until the day of the game. Defence and midfield are two areas where the coach could spring a surprise in his final selection.

Nikolai Pisarev, Russia coach
We arrived in Israel on 29 May so have had time to work on our physical condition and the only thing left is to guess correctly which players are more ready for the moment of the match. As for our psychology, I can see that the lads are not afraid. Let's say they're relaxed but responsible. We are not favourites as we will face strong opponents, but probably this is for the best.

It's no coincidence that people in Russia say the tougher, the better. When everything is calm it is bad. We need some nervous tension, also me as a coach. And this is exactly what we have in the team now – there is no stress, only anticipation. We've been together for three years, got used to each other and it would be wrong to end this cycle badly.

[The injury to forward Aleksandr] Kokorin is a huge blow for the national team too, not just us. He has probably been the best player in the Russian league for the past season.

We know Spain better than any other opponent in the group as we played a friendly against them in March [a 3-1 defeat]. Their national teams, senior and junior, all play in the same way against everybody. They like attacking football, play aggressively, start to press in the opposition half. Spain have a good choice of players. When we played them they made eight substitutions in the second half but it did not change anything [quality-wise].

2013 qualifying (including play-off)
P10 W6 D3 L1 F21 A7

Play-off result
Czech Republic 0-2 Russia
Russia 2-2 Czech Republic (agg: 4-2)

Team news
Andrei Panyukov, a late addition to the squad, has taken part in training for the first time after recovering from a minor injury. Everyone else is fully fit, Pisarev confirmed.

Match fact
The teams have met in three previous UEFA European Under-21 Championship fixtures and Spain have won all of them, scoring five goals and conceding only one.

Did you know?
David de Gea, Thiago Alcántara, Martín Montoya, Iker Muniain and Diego Mariño were part of the Spanish squad that triumphed in Denmark in 2011.

Last updated: 05/06/13 20.12CET

http://www.uefa.com/under21/season=2013/matches/round=2000188/match=2010947/prematch/preview/index.html#russias+nervous+tension

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