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Milla out to end Spain struggles

Winners of four of the first six Under-19 competitions, Spain have not progressed from the group stage since 2007 – something coach Luis Milla is keen to put right in his second straight finals.

Spain coach Luis Milla
Spain coach Luis Milla ©Sportsfile

As he prepares to lead Spain into the UEFA European Under-19 Championship for the second year in succession, coach Luis Milla will be looking to draw on his experience from 2008/09's underwhelming campaign. Winners of four of the competition's first six editions, Spain have not got past the group stage since last lifting the trophy in 2007 – something Milla is keen to put right this time round.

UEFA.com: What did you learn from last year's tournament in Ukraine when Spain were eliminated in the group stage?

Luis Milla: At this stage the standard is extremely high; it's extraordinary. These are championships that are exceptionally tight and can be decided by very small details. Last year was an experience for me that will certainly be useful going into this year's tournament.

UEFA.com: Is victory all-important in this type of competition?

Milla: It's important of course but for me and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) it's not the be-all and end-all. The most important thing is to establish a style that is true to how the senior Spain side play. This takes a little time, but for us what matters most is that we try to follow and that philosophy from the top level down through the youth ranks . If by doing that we manage to achieve victory then all the better.

UEFA.com: At this year's tournament you will come up against Croatia, Portugal and Italy in the group phase. How do you assess each team?

Milla: These are all very strong rivals who each have their own distinctive style. Portugal are a tough team to break down while they are well organised and can be quick up front. Italy are incredibly competitive and managed some admirable statistics in qualifying. Croatia are a surprise package as they aren't used to reaching the final stages of these competitions but they have players with a lot of talent and will be full of hope and expectation.

UEFA.com: Several players in the squad – like Real Madrid CF's Sergio Canales, FC Barcelona's Marc Bartra and Koke of Club Atlético de Madrid - have played in the Spanish Liga. Could that be significant?

Milla: Without a doubt. We know these players are for the future and they could well make it to the senior squad one day. They understand the way we want to play. They are players that will of course help us to compete at a higher level and we hope to take advantage of that.

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