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Meléndez ready for a happy return with Spain U19s

Ginés Meléndez, who led Spain to a trio of U19 titles before taking over the U17s, is temporarily back in charge for their campaign in Romania and has "a good team in every sense".

Spain coach Ginés Meléndez has his eyes on the U19 trophy again
Spain coach Ginés Meléndez has his eyes on the U19 trophy again ©Getty Images

Habitually the team to beat at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship, Spain have lifted the trophy four times but lost to France in last year's final. The experienced Ginés Meléndez, who won three titles at this level before switching to the U17s, is charged with coaching the squad in Romania with regular U19 trainer Julen Lopetegui away at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

UEFA.com: How is the atmosphere among the squad?

Ginés Meléndez: Very good. This is a group who have been together for a long time, since U15 and U16 level, and they work very hard. Although six of them are going to play at the U20 World Cup in Colombia, the basis of this squad finished third at the [2009] U17 World Cup in Nigeria. It's a good team in every sense.

UEFA.com: What are the hopes for the tournament and do the players feel more pressure because the U21s have already won their European title this summer?

Meléndez: We have no problems in that sense – we never feel this type of pressure in Spain. Our work is to get these players into the U21 set-up. The most important thing is to train them so they advance through the age groups. That's our No1 job, not winning trophies.

UEFA.com: What are the strengths of this side?

Meléndez: Our style of play is our strong point. It's the same throughout all the age groups and it's something we've been working on for a long time. The lads who will go to Colombia are going to be replaced by players who are a year younger, but our work in training them will continue regardless of their age.

UEFA.com: Are there any individuals who stand out?

Meléndez: I don't normally like to focus on specific players but there are some who have quite a lot of talent. Álvaro Morata, Pablo Sarabia, Borja and Sergio Gómez are players who are very important to Spanish football.

UEFA.com: How well do you know your group opponents?

Meléndez: We still haven't studied them in depth. We know Turkey will be very difficult rivals having eliminated Germany – quite an achievement because Germany were [2009] European U17 champions. Belgium are always tricky because they usually play to a very defined style and do so very well. Serbia are a strong side and we lost to them at the U19 finals in Ukraine a couple of years ago. This group is going to be very difficult, it is the stronger of the two.

UEFA.com: Will you find it difficult taking over after Lopetegui led the squad through qualifying?

Meléndez: I've known and worked with all these players between the ages of 15 and 18 so there will be no problem leading them into the finals. We were third in the world [at U17 level] in 2009 so we know each other well. We always work together as a group of coaches. Lopetegui took charge last year but since we work the same way there aren't any difficulties.

UEFA.com: What are your fondest memories of these finals?

Meléndez: The best memories are of my three finals at this level – and of winning all three, in 2004, 2006 and 2007. If I can win again it will be my fourth gold medal but if not, no problem. What's important is to get the boys into the U21s.

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