Xavi insists Spain is still hungry for success

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Xavi says that Spain have not been jaded by four years of success and remain as hungry as ever ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Italy in the final of Euro 2012.

Vicente del Bosque‘s side are bidding to become the first team to retain a European Championship title, as well as the first side to win three consecutive major international tournaments.

Xavi, a key figure in the side that triumphed at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, has also won every major honour in the club game with Barcelona, but on the eve of the final, he says his desire still burns as strongly as ever.

“We just want to enjoy being in the final of the Euro,” said the midfielder.

“Luckily for us, it’s our second (Euro) final. We really want to do well and show people that this team are still hungry to win and that our football is good.”

The 32-year-old’s remark about the quality of Spain’s play was telling, as the team have received criticism for the supposed sterility of their possession-based approach.

Spain failed to sparkle in the 2-0 quarter-final win over France and needed penalties to see off Portugal in the last four, but Xavi says accusations that their football has become boring are unfair.

“We’re not bored. We enjoy our games,” he said. “And that’s what we want to do — continue with a style that’s brought us victories.

“Our style is well defined, and the new players coming into the team know how to adapt to it. I think our fans identify with our style. We enjoy it, and I think all football fans must enjoy it.”

Contradicting traditional stereotypes, Italy have sought to play more expansive football at this tournament, earning praise for their attacking endeavour in the games against England and Germany.

Xavi admitted he was a fan of the approach introduced by coach Cesare Prandelli and singled out fellow playmaker Andrea Pirlo for praise.

“A few years ago, football was showing tendencies of becoming more physical and the games more condensed,” he said.

“We were very lucky that, although (Spain’s) footballers were slightly weaker physically, they were more talented technically.

“That’s what we want to do against Italy — play a spectacular game.

“Players like Pirlo are playing in a similar way, so I’m very happy that the tendency in football now is to try to play and try to attack.”

Sunday’s final at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium is a re-run of the opening Group C match between the sides, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

Spain could have eliminated Italy if their final group match with Croatia had ended in a 2-2 draw, sparking fears of a fix in the Italian media, but Xavi said he had no regrets that his side had not sent the Azzurri home.

“There was lots of speculation about the 2-2 draw but, as the coach said, we never regret playing for the win and we won’t forget that if we lose tomorrow (Sunday),” he said.

To date, Xavi has been eclipsed by his midfield colleagues Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso at the tournament, but Del Bosque has backed him to make an impact against Italy.

“Xavi is a very good player, and he puts his talent to the service of the team,” said the Spain coach. “He is our playmaker. He defines our style.”

The Barcelona schemer will be 34 by the time the 2014 World Cup in Brazil begins, but he says he is not entertaining thoughts about walking away from the national side.

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” he said, when asked if he would still be playing for Spain in two years’ time.

“I’ll see how I feel. I feel very good right now. All these victories are motivation for me, so I would like to keep playing.

“I feel great playing with our philosophy. I am here for the team and for their needs. I will try to enjoy tomorrow, and if we win, that’s great.”

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