Gniewino, Poland – Spain were unable to call on the services of winger Jesus Navas until late 2009 because of his anxiety about being away from home but since putting that behind him the electric winger has made a number of vital contributions.
Navas came off the bench to score the late winner in the world and European champions' nervy 1-0 victory over Croatia on Monday that put them through to the last eight of Euro 2012 as Group C winners.
A victory for the Croats, who were eliminated, would have sent holders Spain tumbling out instead and scuppered their bid to become the first nation to win back-to-back continental titles with a World Cup in between.
Navas is a classic impact played who enters the fray late in the game when the opposition defence is tiring and causes havoc down the right with his pacy, weaving runs.
It was the 26-year-old Andalusian who picked up the ball deep in the Spain half in the 2010 World Cup final against Netherlands and his burst of speed up the line set in motion the move that culminated in Andres Iniesta's winning goal.
Iniesta, who produced yet another man of the match performance against the Croats, squared the ball for Navas to put the ball into an empty net on Monday.
“I am very happy and pleased and honestly I am enjoying this moment a lot,” Navas, who made his debut in a friendly against Argentina in November 2009, told radio station Cadena Ser.
“We knew that we needed to create more danger and inject as much speed as possible into our attacks because they closed ranks very well at the back,” he added.
“They were very tough to break down but the team kept pressing and we were able to get forward and score the winner.
“Above all we have confidence in ourselves that we can do things well and work hard.”
Spain will meet the runners-up from a Group D featuring France, England, Ukraine and eliminated Sweden in Donetsk on Saturday and coach Vicente del Bosque said he does not mind who they play.
“Any of the three teams we could face is strong and we just have to prepare the best we can,” he told Cadena Ser.
“I don't think that there is any inferior team and we shouldn't underestimate any of them but we also know it's by no means impossible for us to get through to the last four.”
If Spain reach the semi-finals they will play the winners of the quarter-final between Portugal and the Czech Republic. – Reuters