Vicente del Bosque: We want to defend the title that the team won so brilliantly in 2008. We know it is difficult – so difficult in fact that no team has won three tournaments in a row before. We’re really looking forward to competing. We have played well, with one or two exceptions in friendlies [Spain were beaten by Portugal and Argentina]. We have tried to make sure that success does not effect us adversely. We’ve tried to get the idea into the players’ heads that they cannot drop their guard. The difficulty you have as a national team coach is continuity.
How would you explain Spain’s recent success?
I feel very privileged to have coincided with a generation of such brilliance. That’s one thing. Then there are a number of factors of course. One of the fundamental issues is the good relationship that exists within the group. I have been fortunate to have a good group made up of nice people. It is important to reinforce the relations that exist between the players. That was a key part of our success in recent years. We have worked with a sense of normality that has been very positive. Another factor is that we are faithful to a style of play. I’d also suggest a third factor: nobody relaxes, these players are very competitive.
There have been suggestions that club football could be the undoing of the national team. Is there a sense of relief that Real Madrid and Barcelona did not make it to the Champions League final?
No. It would have been very good for Spanish football to have had them in the Final. I don’t think that it would have done us any harm. I said before that whatever happened would not have repercussions for the seleccion. I think Spanish football should enjoy the moment. It’s not easy for a single country to have five European semi-finalists. That shows that Spanish football is in good shape.
What about the final of the Spanish Cup? Athletic Bilbao will play Barcelona as late as May 25…
There are not many dates in the calendar and that was the [only] option. They will play, then have a break and join the squad. In the meantime, we will use some of the players from the Olympic squad for games and [training] sessions.
There has been a lot of talk about who you take as your no9, not least because of the doubts over Fernando Torres and David Villa…
The hardest thing about being a national manager is that you have to leave people out who have done enough to deserve a place, players who are regulars for their club. Or you have players on the bench and they are not happy. There is a chance [for Villa and Torres]. I don’t really know how to define [Torres’s situation]. He was not playing regularly. It’s difficult because he is not just another player, he is a footballer who has done a lot for Spain and played over 90 games.
Villa’s injury was a real set-back. Firstly for him but also for Spain. He played a huge part in us becoming world champions and has been with us for a long time. He is a good person and well-liked by everyone in the squad. I have spoken to him and the people round him and they think he will be ready. We are talking about the best goal scorer Spain has, so we will wait as long as we can for him.
What do you make of the group?
It’s difficult. Ireland and Croatia made it through the play-offs, that’s true, but they were clearly the better sides in their respective games. And as for Italy, that’s a bit of a classic now. It will be hard.
Spain are favourites…
We’re not the only favourites. Holland, runners-up at the World Cup, had a perfect qualifying campaign and are playing well. I hardly need to mention Germany. You can’t forget England, Italy, France or Portugal. It could be like Denmark in 1992 or Greece in 2004 – maybe someone unexpected will win it. I see so many good teams. And as for winning three tournaments in a row? No one has ever done it: that tells you how difficult it is.
Interview by John Holmesdale