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High hopes for Joaquín
This summer's EURO 2004 finals will mark the 40th anniversary of Spain's only major triumph at international level. The winners of the 1964 European Championship have been waiting a long time for a second piece of silverware.
Tuesday, 17 February 2004

 

Young winger Joaquín Sánchez may not have been born when the stars of '64 lifted the Henri Delaunay trophy, but he knows the burden of expectation which lies on the shoulders of Iñaki Sáez's squad and is determined that Spain should do their reputation justice in Portugal. 

"We are going to Portugal with many dreams," he told uefa.com. "There are some very strong teams in the tournament but we know that we have a very good side and have the opportunity to do very well in Portugal. We have the support of the Spanish people and we hope to repay that support with a good performance." 

While Spain remain one of Europe's most extravagantly gifted teams, they struggled in qualification, finishing as runners-up to Greece in their group and only progressing to the finals after a two-legged play-off victory against Norway. However, for Joaquín, the extra stress may have had its benefits. 

"We made life difficult for ourselves in the qualifiers but we showed a lot of character to perform well in the play-offs and this has helped us to have more belief in what we can achieve this summer," said the 22-year-old, who made his first major bow in international football at the 2002 World Cup finals. 

Spain's next challenge will be taking on Peru in a friendly game on Wednesday as the pressure builds ahead of EURO 2004. The Real Betis Balompié player admitted that he did not know much about the Peruvians but maintained that bonding together as a team is the aim of the game. 

"I see this fixture as a good chance for team building," Joaquín said. "There was so much pressure on everyone for our last few qualifying games but now we have a chance to enjoy playing with one another and that's why I think it is important to have these friendlies." 

Certainly, as the final tournament approaches, Spain will have little chance to relax. With a reputation for spectacular failures at major tournaments, the pressure is on Sáez's men to show their worth - especially with the tournament being staged so close to home. 

"When we get to this kind of tournament we have not, in recent years, come away with the final prize," Joaquín said diplomatically. "This competition will be one of the best opportunities we will have to win a major tournament. We are mentally focused and very optimistic." 

However, despite rumours that he would soon be joining former Sevilla star José Antonio Reyes in the English Premiership, Joaquín was quick to deny that he had any interest in using EURO 2004 to showcase his skills to other clubs. "My only objective is to win all of our games, get to the final and win the competition," he said. 

"The most important thing is the Spanish team and showing the world that we play good football," Joaquín added. "For myself, as for every player, tournaments like these are a great opportunity to show what you can do to the rest of the world, but I'm not looking to move teams so this is not my motivation." 
- Julia Court

 

 

 

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