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Spain U21 joy meant much to Javi Martínez

"It was one of the best experiences I have had in football," Javi Martínez told UEFA.com as he recalled winning the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship with Spain.

Spain U21 joy meant much to Javi Martínez
Spain U21 joy meant much to Javi Martínez ©UEFA.com

A member of Spain's winning squads at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2012, Javi Martínez is just as happy to revisit his 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship success with the national team in Denmark.

"It was one of the best experiences I have ever had in football," the midfielder told UEFA.com. "Thank God, [Juan] Mata and me – the only ones who had played in the World Cup, and later the EURO – managed to make history, because I think nobody had [won all three competitions in succession] before. Everything went pretty smoothly and I have very nice memories of that Under-21 EURO."

Javi Martínez – who left Athletic Club for FC Bayern München last summer – remembers the semi-final in Viborg well, since it took extra time for Spain to secure a 3-1 victory against Belarus after trailing for much of the 90 minutes. "We thought: it is one of those days when the ball just doesn't want to go in, after creating like 200 chances," he recalled. "But thank God, 'Adri' [Adrián López] managed to score the equaliser from one of the last moves of the match to take us to extra time, and we knew that if we made it to extra time we would have enough options. And that's how it went."

Spain will attempt to hold onto the title that Javi Martínez won when Julen Lopetegui's side travel to Israel for this summer's championship, and the 24-year-old is optimistic on their behalf. "They certainly have their chances to defend the title, and let's hope they can manage to bring the trophy back home," he said.

However, Javi Martínez also urged the next generation of U21 players to, above all, feel the buzz of competing at international level. "The only thing I can tell them is what I did: enjoy the competition in the best possible way because it's something that won't happen again," he said. "You won't be 21 again. They should enjoy it – and to the Spanish lads, try to win it."