Marek Hamšík savoured a "crazy sensation" after SSC Napoli qualified with a win at Villarreal CF while fellow scorer Gökhan Inler enjoyed gift-wrapping "a big present" for the fans.
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Gökhan Inler and Marek Hamšík scored unanswered goals at Villarreal CF to fire SSC Napoli into the UEFA Champions League knockout phase and both were buzzing with excitement as they spoke to UEFA.com. There was a contrasting mood in the home camp, as Nilmar, Marcos Senna and coach Juan Carlos Garrido reflected on a Group A campaign which produced zero points.
Marek Hamšík, Napoli forward
It's a crazy sensation now that we have achieved this. We are so happy. There is already a party in the city right now and when we get back to Naples airport there will be so many fans. That's why we are so happy. It's 21 years since we reached this stage in the European Cup, so this is fantastic.
Napoli have football-crazy fans, which you can see by the fact that 5,000 of them have followed us here. When the group was drawn we knew it was a very hard one, but today we have 11 points and that's a fantastic achievement. Now we'll wait to see which team we are going to play next.
Gökhan Inler, Napoli forward
It's true that we were tense and nervous. The first half was difficult, we knew that we had to win the game. My goal opened the game up and the team surged to a good finish. I think there was a defender in front of [Villarreal goalkeeper] Diego López. I hit the ball very well and he didn't have a chance; it came at exactly the right time. Given that it was my first Napoli goal, I dedicate it to our supporters.
It is amazing.
The players have told me that when we go home the fans will be waiting at the airport for us. I think we have given them a big present and we will go and enjoy it together. We will push to reach the quarter-finals next because this is the opportunity in front of us. However, the key thing is that we now refocus on our championship.
Juan Carlos Garrido, Villarreal coach
We knew that it was going to be a difficult group and tonight we faced a team that knows how to play. In the second half you could really see that and even more so after we made the necessary changes to help out those players who had returned from injury. We played well in the first half and opened them up while keeping the ball. They are dangerous, though, and have players who can really make a difference.
We saw after the break that they were hungry to score while we needed to rest some players. I hope that we can start getting our team back, that the players we need start to return and feel well. I think there are many positive conclusions we can draw from tonight's game. From now we must start to focus on the league. The team know that they are on the right road. As we saw tonight, certain things are starting to get better.
Nilmar, Villarreal forward
This was a difficult match given that there wasn't Champions League survival riding on it for us. Obviously we are all down right now. Our aim was to have a good tournament this season, but that's football and we can't waste time lamenting the fact. It's back to work for us now in order to start winning matches again – that's vital.
Even after losing 2-0 I think we demonstrated a change of attitude tonight. We worked, we looked to be on the ball all the time and we showed we could play football whenever possible.
I think we controlled more of the possession, so even if our opponents left here the happy ones we know that we fought a good fight.
Marcos Senna, Villarreal midfielder
What a disappointment this group stage has been for us. I've played in a couple of Champions League campaigns with Villarreal before and it has gone so well each time. This time it's been a bad experience. I'll hold on to the memories of the good times. It's the moment now to turn the page, forget how things have gone in the Champions League and put our serious work heads on.
We have the Liga and the Copa del Rey right in front of us and it's never too late to end a losing streak. Right now, it's not about planning to get back into European competition next season, simply about winning the next game, rising up the league table and only once we have closed the gap on the leading teams can we start to consider whether we can get back into UEFA competition.