Spain playmaker Juan Mata has backed England to spring a surprise at Euro 2012 despite not being considered one of the favourites.
England go into the tournament with a new manager after Fabio Capello sensationally resigned after seeing John Terry stripped of the captaincy in February.
Mata said how England adapt to playing under Roy Hodgson was the most important thing.
“I don’t know whether the change of manager for England will affect the team,” Mata told reporters.
“People say Hodgson’s system is different to Capello, but the key is how the players will adapt.”
After emerging triumphant in both the Champions League and FA Cup finals in his first season with Chelsea, Mata believes the qualities he has seen from England’s players will stand them in good stead for the tournament.
“For me, England will always be on the list of candidates for the title,” Mata said. “They have a great history and also the players are at a great level.
“England’s strengths are the quality of players and the physical strengths in the team. They always fight for the ball. The desire is sensational.
England will be without suspended striker Wayne Rooney for the first two group matches, and Mata said the Manchester United striker’s absence was a blow.
“The absence of Rooney is very important for England’s plans. That is bad for England but the coach has had time to look at solutions and look at ways to make it better the team,” Mata said.
“Everyone says Spain, Germany and Holland are favourites for the title. But I wouldn’t discount England or France, especially if they do well in the first phase.”
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