Mata: How it feels to win a European Championship

Sunday 11 July 2021 07:00

A former European champion with Spain, Juan Mata has wished his Manchester United team-mates Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford good luck for the Euro 2020 final.

Our three England internationals are currently preparing to face Italy at Wembley Stadium at 20:00 BST and everybody associated with the Reds is desperate for them to lift the historic trophy. 

Mata knows exactly how that feels after achieving success at Euro 2012 with his beloved Spain, when he stepped off the bench to score the final goal in a remarkable 4-0 win over Italy. 

In our exclusive interview at Carrington earlier this week, to mark his new United contract, club reporter Stewart Gardner got Juan’s take on the European Championship so far, the Spaniard’s advice for our three lions and his standout memories from one of the happiest days in his life.

You know what it’s like to play and score in a European Championship final against Italy, so what would be your message to the England guys ahead of their own major final?
“Well, it’s going to be tough, to be honest, as Italy have been a very strong team over the course of the tournament. Having said so, I felt that Spain deserved more against Italy and I think they deserved to go through. So many young players in the Spain squad were playing very good and they probably deserved to go through. But Italy and England are in the final so it’s going to be a nice final. Of course, it’s very important for this country, and for many of my friends and many people I know, and hopefully for our players, so I’m wishing them a great game. The most important thing for me, personally, is they don’t get injured so they are ready and can rest, after winning, rest well for next season. Hopefully, it’s going to be a great game at Wembley at a [nearly] full stadium with hopefully good football. Let’s see, it’s going to be great for this country.”
Mata scored the final goal for Spain in the Euro 2012 final.
Have you been impressed by what you’ve seen from Luke, Harry and Marcus in the tournament?
“Yes, they’re playing very well and they are in the final, but I know their level because I train with them. They can play like that in every game, especially with Harry and Luke, who have played many, many games for us this season and are both playing very good. To have this good tournament is just a consequence of their form. For Harry, he’s been injured, of course, but has recovered very well and I’m very pleased for both of them. And also for Marcus, whenever he has come on, he’s influenced games and hopefully he can also influence the final because he deserves it.”
In terms of winning the Euros, what are your memories of the final – what comes to mind when I say Euro 2012 to you?
“Of course, it comes to my mind when Fernando Torres is facing Buffon and I was screaming as hard as I could, as loud as I could, so he could pass the ball to me. Which he did and then I had to just put it in the back of the net and it was 4-0. It was the last goal of the tournament, a tournament we won after having the Euros and the World Cup. It was one of the happiest days of my life. My family and friends were in the stands. I just went into the game five minutes before I scored and then the game finished so it was the perfect ending for a great tournament personally. One of the games and goals I will never forget.”
Juan hopes his United team-mates will lift the trophy on Sunday night.
A 4-0 win doesn’t happen very often in a final – it’s an incredible scoreline, especially against Italy…
“It was our best game in the tournament. We played Italy in the first game of the tournament and we drew and we had some difficulties going through the group, the quarter-final and all of that. In the final, we seemed to play our best level. The score said it all – 4-0 against Italy, with the best players, and it was just an incredible day for us. A day and a goal I will never forget.”