The UEFA.com Golden Player at the 2010 UEFA European Women's U17 Championship, which Spain won, Dolores Gallardo believes her country can excel again this week.
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Spain take on Sweden in the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship semi-finals in Nyon on Tuesday. UEFA.com spoke to a former winner of the tournament, Dolores Gallardo, to gauge the Iberian nation's chances of success in Switzerland. Currently with the senior Spanish side, preparing for July's UEFA Women's EURO 2013, goalkeeper 'Lola' gave an assessment of Jorge Vilda's current charges, who are looking to help Spain to a third triumph at this level.
UEFA.com: What is your fondest memory from that UEFA European Women's U17 Championship win in 2010?
Dolores Gallardo: I would have to say the penalty shoot-out in the final [against the Republic of Ireland] and those two spot kicks I saved to help our team win such an important title.
UEFA.com: How did you feel going into a penalty shoot-out of such magnitude?
Gallardo: I went into it feeling quite calm, really. A goalkeeper can afford to relax, thinking, 'If I stop this, great, if not, hard luck.' We had the fortune of stopping two of their efforts while scoring four ourselves. We were confident every player who stepped up was going to do their job.
UEFA.com: How was it to be chosen UEFA.com's Golden Player of the tournament?
Gallardo: I was tremendously happy, it was almost inexplicable. We were already talking about being European champions, which is not just any trophy. I was happy, as were my team-mates for me – it was a real pleasure for everyone.
UEFA.com: How does a tournament like this help young players?
Gallardo: It helps in every way, on a sporting and a personal level. When you are that age, everyone comes to the table with the hope of winning and that [attitude] is good for everyone, especially looking towards the future.
UEFA.com: And how do such events help on a personal level?
Gallardo: The work every player puts in has its own rewards. With all due respect and humility, I have the feeling I will one day be able to win another European Championship.
UEFA.com: Do you know the current crop of WU17 players?
Gallardo: Personally, I know two of the players who are playing with Sevilla FC. The team have a big future and, with hard work and humility, they are going to go very far. There are players with great ability at U17 and U19 levels who offer a bright future to the senior team.
UEFA.com: What advice would you give this young group ahead of the finals in Switzerland?
Gallardo: That they remain calm while showing that they can be a solid team and a good group. They should know that the results will come and I am certain they will be champions.
UEFA.com: How can you be so sure?
Gallardo: I think that in Spain – although we are a bit behind other countries in this respect – great players are coming through from the youth set-ups. The clubs are working really well with them, and some players have already made their debuts in the Spanish Liga at just 16 and 17.
UEFA.com: For the first time next season there will be a final phase – taking place in England – featuring eight teams. How do you see that going?
Gallardo: Each year things are getting more and more difficult with very good players emerging from many countries. These players are very competitive and have great physical capabilities. That said, Spain also have a lot of quality and if they are able to play to their style and strengths, are capable of beating anyone.