Midfielder Dani Ceballos discusses Spain's campaign so far, and believes the team's "determination, self-confidence and ambition" will prove crucial against France.
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The UEFA European Under-19 Championship has been a mixed bag for Spain so far: impressive in beating holders Germany on matchday one, they were outplayed by Russia in their second fixture and then had to withstand a late Netherlands surge to reach the semi-finals. As they prepare to face France, Dani Ceballos discusses lessons learned and future challenges.
Question: Your thoughts on the match against the Netherlands?
Dani Ceballos: It was a good match, both personally and collectively. We held tight from start to finish, but we had to struggle as the Dutch team were not easy rivals but a very competitive side that fought until the last minute. In the end we achieved our goal.
Question: Did the defeat by Russia serve as a warning?
Ceballos: Russia put us under considerable pressure and didn't allow us to play our game. We had certain weaknesses but we corrected them against the Dutch and looked more comfortable. In the second half we dropped back as we were conscious of what was at stake and didn't want to get eliminated. We managed to control the situation and get forward, looking to make the most of our counterattacks.
Question: Did you expect more from the tournament?
Ceballos: We wanted to win the match [against the Netherlands] and the group, but even second place is a good result. Let's hope we can continue on the right track against France in order to reach the final.
Question: How do you asses your own performances? You seem at the heart of every attacking move ...
Ceballos: I want to improve game by game and feel more at ease on the pitch. I like looking for the killer pass, and with team-mates like Alfonso [Pedraza], Borja [Mayoral] and Marco [Asensio] that's easy. They know just where to be and provide me with the opportunity to pick the pass.
Question: Are you ready for the semi-final against France?
Ceballos: It will be a great match for us to play in and for the fans to watch. My team has determination, self-confidence and ambition, and I hope we'll be the ones celebrating in the end.
Question: What do you know about your opponents?
Ceballos: France are imposing in stature and playing against them will take a considerable physical effort on our part. They have very skilled footballers. There is Lucas Hernández, Atlético Madrid's left-back, and [Kingsley] Coman of Juventus, to name just a couple of their excellent players. But we also have quality and we'll be even better on Thursday.
Question: How do you think the match will be decided?
Ceballos: We've watched several France matches and we know what we're up against. We know how to gain the initiative and win possession. However, even if we have to suffer, like we did in the late stages against the Dutch, we'll rise to the occasion and try to qualify. That's all we're thinking about.