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Joaquín Maroto | 31/12/2012
Football, and the national team was one of the few sources of joy for Spaniards in 2012. Will it be the same in 2013?
It was a good year for us. Winning the European Championship, the second in a row after the one won by Luis in 2008 was a challenge and we did it. But it's no use being content with the past if want to stay at this level in the future. Personally I'm proud that this title, the European Championship, was something for the country to cheer about in a difficult time, although as I said at the time it's not going to fix Spain's problems.
You have won the love and respect of the people. What are your wishes for them?
Beyond sport I hope that at the start of this new year all the peoples in Spain can live happily together, with respect and loyalty. I hope we're united, tolerant and understanding. I wish for the ones that are in bad situations, the unemployed, to find work, and that we don't go backwards with the most vulnerable - the elderly and the disabled. We should all support each other, especially the youngsters. I wish everyone a happy 2013, especially those who've been having a bad time.
What are your objectives in sport for the year that is about to begin?
The first goal is to book our ticket to the World Cup in Brazil. That's the next challenge. In March we have two important games, against Finland and then France. Winning in Finland will give us a surer footing when we go to Paris for a match that could be decisive. We can't slip up against opponents who are in theory more beatable, because that could be fatal.
Don't you think it's a bit unfair that the reigning champions have to qualify to be able to defend their title?
If they'd said to us before the 2010 World Cup that you can win it in exchange for having to qualify for 2014, we would all have accepted that without a doubt. So there's no reason to complain. Firstly because it's the rule, and secondly because it's not practical; it doesn't get you anywhere. FIFA have decided that only the organizing country can escape the qualifying and that's something we have to deal with. What we have to do is qualify, and then go to Brazil in 2014 and do our job the best we can and hopefully regain the title.
Before that, in the summer Spain will play in their second Confederations Cup. How are we going to approach this competition?
With complete respect and the biggest of ambitions. It's a trophy Spain has only been involved in once, for which you need to be a continental champion, and it's played just around the corner from the World Cup. The Confederations Cup is interesting. Participating last time helped Spain a lot to later go on and win the World Cup. We got to know the stadiums, the atmosphere and the conditions; also the difficulties in a tournament which copies the format of the World Cup. Losing against the USA in 2009 was an experience that helped us be alert in 2010. In the end, all these experiences helped us at the World Cup. I hope we'll make the most of the next Confederations Cup in the same way. We're going there with the best and with the healthy intention to win.
The team has been remodelled since you took over in 2008. But Del Bosque is the manager who has brought in the least new players in the last 25 years. Do we have a stable block?
We do, yes. I think this group still have a shelf life. The main thing is that these players keep the desire to win and don¡t settle for what they've already done. They're showing that they're capable. They showed it this summer, when they won the European Championship after winning the World Cup. And they've also shown it by keeping the team at the very top of the FIFA rankings. Winning the World Cup, and the European Championship you can justify with a good month of competition being number 1 for five years or even longer.
What about the new players who are starting to mature? Will they get their chance?
We'll try to hone the list with each match. We'll attempt to be fair, but you can never please everybody. The difficult thing in the Spain team is not calling up new players, but making space for them. For some to come in others have to leave. And the ones that are here have shown that they're able to do the job. It's not easy. But I'm still keeping tabs on the ones that are coming up - the Michus, the Aspas', the Thiagos... all those players that have earnt the right on the pitch for us to be watching them. Those that have come up through the Under-21s like Thiago, Muniain and Ander Herrera as well as the others - ones who've appeared later like Michu and Beñat.
For now, it's a fact that in the last five years the presence of Spain players at the big awards has multiplied. Iniesta is a finalist for the Ballon d'Or...
I hope that Iniesta wins the Ballon d'Or, and I think he'll get a lot of votes.
Besides the European Championship, what has made you especially satisfied in 2012?
The fact that the Spanish players want to come to the national team, and that they've wanted to help and contribute their presence to Spain. I'm also really satisfied with the reception we've received away from home, particularly on our journeys across the Atlantic. The image that the team projects of Spain is positive. Football is an incentive, proof that the young can do well and overcome adversity. There's no reason to be pessimistic, quite the opposite. We have to help the young to make their optimism into a motor, and a virtue.