NICE: European champions Spain are often slow starters at major tournaments but after Gerard Pique’s late winner in their Euro 2016 opener, Vicente del Bosque’s men already have the last 16 in sight when they take on Turkey on Friday.
“Starting with a win makes a big difference,” Atletico Madrid defender Juanfran told reporters at the Stadium Nice ahead of Spain’s second Group D tie.
“It changes the mood, in the hotel, with the manager, everything feels better,” he said.
“We get more confidence about ourselves, after what happened in Brazil, if you lose the first game your confidence drops.”
An opening defeat at the 2010 World Cup, and a draw at the 2012 European Championship ultimately counted for little as Spain won both tournaments.
But after a disastrous 5-1 thrashing at the hands of the Netherlands provoked a first-round exit from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for the holders, Spain breathed a sigh of relief with the 1-0 win against the Czech Republic in Toulouse on Monday.
“We are on a different passage now from what happened in Brazil, we have a great group, and there is a really great atmosphere now in the squad,” said Sergio Busquets.
“A win calms you,” he added.
Although Del Bosque handed tournament debuts to Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz, Celta Vigo winger Nolito, and Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, it was Spain’s veterans who made the difference in Toulouse.
Busquet’s Barcelona teammates Andres Iniesta and Pique set up and finished the winning goal in Toulouse, with the 32-year-old midfield playmaker in particular earning plaudits for his sublime performance.
The win reinforced Spain’s position among the tournament favourites and also placed them on a fast-track for the knockout stages, but coach Vicente del Bosque was keen to rein in any overconfidence.
“All these good things being said about us are very nice but they could confuse us,” he said.
“Opinions are defined by results, almost certainly it would not be the same without that (Pique) goal.”
He warned there was also a danger of Spain being “confused” by Turkey’s out-of-sorts 1-0 defeat by Croatia in their group opener.
The 65-year-old coach had a spell as coach of current Turkish champions Besiktas in 2004-2005, and retains a soft spot for the country.
“I have a lot of affection for Turkey in general, they have a great team, we have to be very careful… they are bold and brave and will make it very difficult for us,” he said.
“We know their qualities and how passionately they play for their country,” added Juanfran, who identified Barcelona’s Arda Turan as a key threat.
“He’s a magnificent player, if he has a good day it’s difficult to stop him,” he said.
“But they have a lot of good players, we have to respect them all, if we do that we’ll be ok.”