UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Navas predicting steely nerves from Spain

Jesús Navas feels that Spain need to "just stay calm" when they face last-eight rivals France on Saturday, the uneasiness of their showing against Croatia now behind them.

Jesús Navas gave Spain victory against Croatia
Jesús Navas gave Spain victory against Croatia ©Getty Images

After the storm, the calm. Spain may have flirted with elimination in their final Group C outing against Croatia, but Jesús Navas insists that serenity now reigns in the holders' ranks after his goal ultimately set up a quarter-final meeting with France.

Sent into Monday's showdown in Gdansk from the bench, the Sevilla FC midfielder was able to banish the prospect of an early exit with two minutes to go when he pummelled the ball into the back of Stipe Pletikosa's net following Andrés Iniesta's lay-off. Before that, however, the world and European champions were given a real scare, and many fans fear that becoming the first team to win three consecutive major international tournaments will prove beyond them.

Not so Navas. "I think it was due to the tension around the result of that game," he said. "We were drawing 0-0 and the result continued to stay like that, so that goal then made us calmer. There was a lot of attention on that match, which is what our team deserves, and in the end it all went well."

The victory sealed first place in the section for Vicente del Bosque's men and means they must down Les Bleus in Donetsk on Saturday to reach the last four. For Navas, who made three appearances during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Spain can now rely on their composure as another knockout phase beckons. "We managed to come top of our group and that was very important in order to gain confidence," he said. "What we need to do is just stay calm, because now the really important matches start. We have to focus fully on what's most important."

That calmness has clearly served Spain well in recent years, helping them remain unbeaten in the knockout stages of major tournaments since upcoming opponents France beat them 3-1 at the 2006 World Cup. "A couple of years have passed since then and we've grown in confidence due to what we've achieved and we're now very calm," said Navas. "We have faith in the things we do, and that's a big plus for us."

Given reports of heated discussions in the France camp following their loss to Sweden on Tuesday, the contrast in mood between the two rivals could hardly be starker. Navas is well aware of the problems Laurent Blanc's side can pose, however. "I think they have a strong team; I think they're a very compact team," he said. "Then they have important players in attack like [Karim] Benzema, [Franck] Ribéry and [Samir] Nasri, all very dangerous in attack. I think that we need to be very focused."

Making sure they do will be Del Bosque, whose message to the team is always "to keep our rhythm up and keep our balance", while Spain's array of experienced campaigners will also keep things steady. One such man is holding player Xabi Alonso, set to win his 100th cap at the Donbass Arena. "He is, above all, a very well-rounded player," commented Navas. "He works very well defensively and gives the team great balance in midfield. We have to congratulate him for the matches he's played."

He is also a role model to follow, and not least for Navas himself, who has struggled for playing time since making his debut three years ago – although he featured in the World Cup showpiece. "This is what I hope for," he said. "I want to reach 100 caps and I have been enjoying it a lot with the national team." Possessing 19 for now, he will be looking to at least raise his total by another three before UEFA EURO 2012 is up.

Selected for you