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Iraia sure Spain can shine again

Iraia Pérez de Heredia played a key role in Spain's triumph a year ago and although she will not be in Nyon for this week's title defence, the striker said: "I have complete faith in my team-mates."

Iraia helped Spain triumph a year ago
Iraia helped Spain triumph a year ago ©Sportsfile

It is a year since Spain forward Iraia Pérez de Heredia lifted the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship trophy but her emotions are still fresh as ever.

Having been promoted early to the U19s, travelling to Italy for the European finals earlier this summer, Iraia will not be part of the title defence that begins with the last-four fixture against Iceland in Nyon on Thursday, but having played a role in qualifying she told the tournament's official programme that she is confident her side can impress again.

What memories stand out from last year's triumph?

Iraia Pérez de Heredia: My memories of that win will never be erased from my mind. It was a great year for our team and above all for me. Winning a European championship wasn't about just lifting a trophy, it was our dream and brought such happiness.

How does it feel to lift the trophy?

Pérez de Heredia: You feel you have done something fantastic for your country and that your heart is jumping out of your chest with intense emotion.

Can Spain retain the title?

Pérez de Heredia: I don't know if we can achieve that, but I have complete faith in my team-mates.

What advice would you give to the players?

Pérez de Heredia: My advice would be don't be nervous. They know they're fantastic and can achieve whatever goal is put in front of them. I will be there supporting them and giving them that extra push towards victory.

You played in the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final tournament in May. What was that like?

Pérez de Heredia: I really wasn't expecting to take part in the U19s, but it felt great to step up a category. It made me feel they had faith in me and I knew I would have to show my best.

How does playing in European youth competitions help you progress as a player?

Pérez de Heredia: It helps a lot. I learn so much and not just in a footballing sense, it helps me to improve as a person.

You also helped Spain reach the last four of the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago...

Pérez de Heredia: It was the best experience of my life. I was fortunate to be there competing against other great teams. I think it is the dream of every Spanish player.

Who is your footballing idol?

Pérez de Heredia: Andrés Iniesta as he always has something to teach you. He gives everything in every game and I really respect his humility.

Are the successes of Spain's men's teams an inspiration?

Pérez de Heredia: It makes no difference if the team is male or female. We all try to win every game. The success of the other sides make you stronger.