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Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 12:43 UK

My First World Cup: Juan Manuel Mata

Juan Mata celebrates scoring against Estonia
Mata has scored three times for Spain since first being picked last year

By Ben Sutherland

Spain midfielder Juan Manuel Mata has told the BBC it will be "an honour and a privilege" to be selected in the Spain squad, but does not expect to start at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

The Valencia winger, who plays predominantly on the left, said that he expects most of the starting 11 to be drawn from the side that swept to victory in the 2008 European Championship.

That would exclude the 22-year-old, who only broke into the international side last year.

"I have to be realistic," Mata told BBC Mundo.

"Being the age that I am, and looking at the large number of players in Spain to be called up - many of whom will come from the champions of Europe - just being in that group is an honour and a privilege."

Positive experience

Mata added, however, he had a "huge desire" to do well in South Africa.

Spain are in Group H alongside Chile, Honduras and Switzerland, and widely expected to canter into the last 16.

"Above all, I really want to win and do something very important for Spain and for me - by winning our first World Cup."

MY FIRST WORLD CUP XI
BBC My First World Cup XI
11 players making their debut on the World Cup stage at South Africa 2010

Although Mata's father, also Juan, played professionally for Real Oviedo, his son is the first in the family to be selected for the international team.

The former Real Madrid reserve team player moved to Valencia in 2007, and broke into the side when then coach Ronald Koeman fell out with first-choice winger Miguel Angel Angulo.

His progress was rapid, and he won his first cap last year in a qualifying match against Turkey. He has since played a further six times for Spain, scoring three goals - including the final goal in the 3-0 win over Estonia that clinched the team's qualification for South Africa.

Mata said that there was immense pressure on players ahead of a tournament, but that it was part of what he called "the beauty of football".

"When the selection is made for the squad, an entire country is behind a computer," he said.

"I think we have to live with that pressure, manage it. Then that's what makes you enjoy your victories even more."

Mata, who has been continually linked with a move to Liverpool since the end of 2009, was selected for the Spain squad that played in South Africa's warm-up event, the Confederations Cup - and so has experience of what players can expect from the tournament.

He said he had no doubts the teams would find it positive.

"We were in South Africa for a month, so I got to know it well - I liked it," he recalled.

"We were in several cities, in a country of great extremes - in developed cities and some cities that were not so good. But the people were very well behaved; they are very friendly."

Meanwhile he said his first World Cup memory was from USA '94, and the moment that the arm of Mauro Tassotti floored Spain's talisman Luis Enrique.

Enrique reportedly lost a pint of blood, but no penalty was given for the incident, and Spain ultimately lost the match.

"Enrique collapsed and bled a lot," Mata said.

"I remember that image."



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see also
Spain omit Senna from Cup squad
20 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
Spain qualify for 2010 World Cup
09 Sep 09 |  Internationals
Guide to the teams at South Africa 2010
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010


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