Spain's Pirata brings swashbuckle

With Spain being urged by their coach to "play to their limits", forward Esteban Granero is confident that they can ignite their Under-21 finals campaign with a victory against leaders England.

Esteban Granero will shoulder much of Spain's attacking burden
Esteban Granero will shoulder much of Spain's attacking burden ©Sportsfile

With Spain being urged by their coach to "play to their limits", forward Esteban Granero is confident they can ignite their UEFA European Under-21 Championship campaign with a victory over England.

'Final before a final'
The Getafe CF offensive midfielder, who won the first of his nine U21 caps in a 2-2 draw with England in Derby in February 2007, was one of Spain's livelier performers in a disjointed attacking display against Germany on Monday. He recognises that the whole front line must up their game if they are to build on that goalless draw by beating opponents who defeated Finland last time out. "I'm ready – we all are," Granero told the pre-match press conference in Gothenburg. "For us it's a bit like a final before a final. We're really concentrated and we'll really go for it and play a good game."

'Impose our philosophy'
However, both Granero and his coach accept that more attacking endeavour will be required to unpick a strong England defence. "Every generation has some very talented individuals but I'm really happy with the collective strength shown by this team, and they now have to play to their limits," said Juan Ramón López Caro. The No11 echoed his coach's view that Spain will only thrive by sticking to their principles, adding: "We know England are very organised and very quick but we'll try to impose our own style, which we didn't manage to do in the first game. We'll really look to impose our philosophy."

Tournament triumphs
One of eight squad members to have lifted a European Championship trophy at U17 or U19 level, as part of the latter team's triumph in Poland three summers ago, the 21-year-old Granero is one of the younger Spain players in Sweden. He believes the learning curve is a steep one regardless of age, though. "Every player in our team has a reasonable amount of experience in the Liga, and with every game you play at these international tournaments you gain a lot more," said the player nicknamed 'El Pirata' (the pirate). "You discover that every mistake you make can be fatal and that you can't afford to make any errors in these games. You gain a lot of experience this way."

Perform under pressure
Granero contributed four assists and five goals as Getafe preserved their Liga status by the skin of their teeth, including two goals in a crucial win against CA Osasuna and, decisively, the equaliser against Real Racing Club on the season's final day. Well-versed in the art of performing under pressure, he is of the opinion that fortune favours the brave – which he spelled out when it was put to him that a draw might not necessarily be a bad result on Thursday. "I don't think that's what we're looking for," he said. "We should use our strengths on the pitch to win this game. That's the mentality you need when you start a game – you need to go into it convinced you can win."