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Jul 21, 2012

Mata: Gold will cement Spain's status

Juan Mata is determined to help fire Spain to Olympic glory and believes winning gold at the London Games will cement La Roja's place at the summit of world football.

Mata, 23, scored in the final of Euro 2012 as Spain won their third successive major international tournament, though the Chelsea winger's substitute appearance in the final was the only time he featured in Poland and Ukraine.

At the Olympic football tournament, however, Mata is expected to play a pivotal role as one of Spain's three overage players and he is relishing the prospect of leading the young team in London.

"We're not just looking for a magic moment," Mata said. "We want to win gold to show there is no doubt that Spain are the best football nation in the world.

"We can cope with the pressure of being favourites. Everyone is talking about a Spain v Brazil final but our opponents are not important to me. We'll take it match by match.

"Team GB have great players and have the extra advantage of playing at home. They have a chance of winning. If Daniel Sturridge is fit, his attacking partnership with Craig Bellamy will trouble anyone.

"It shows just how strong the competition will be at the Games. Spain are lucky to have many players with great experience, but don't think that Jordi Alba, Javi Martinez and me are the saviours for this team. Each player is important and no one is indispensable. We are a complete team and don't rely on individuals."

With some high-profile players, including Manchester United's Javier Hernandez, prevented from playing at the Olympics by their clubs, Mata revealed Chelsea never put any pressure on him to withdraw.

"I'm dreaming of a gold medal to complete my incredible first season in England. I never believed that I could win so many titles in just a few months. I am very happy," he said. "There has been no pressure from Chelsea about playing at the Olympics.

"I spoke with them some months ago about playing at the Euros and then the Games and I don't believe the extra effort will be a negative for the start of the Premier League season.

"It won't be a problem. It's going be very tense but we must challenge for the title."

Spain, who won gold on home soil at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, take on Japan in their opening Group B game on July 26 at Hampden Park, before also facing Honduras and Morocco.

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