CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — Spain's chances of retaining the World Cup trophy will be a lot better if Sergio Ramos can do for his country what he did at Real Madrid this season.
Ramos is enjoying a career-best season, highlighted by his stoppage-time header that forced extra-time in Real's eventual 4-1 Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid.
"That was a very important moment for me," Ramos said on Tuesday from Spain's training facility at Atletico Paranaense. "One of the most important moments of my life, to score a goal like that."
The 28-year-old Ramos also netted twice against Bayern Munich in the semifinals to help Real reach the final, where it secured its record 10th European Cup.
Ramos comes into the tournament on the heels of scoring six goals in seven games with his club, which also won the Copa del Rey earlier this season over archrival Barcelona.
On Friday, Ramos will make his 117th appearance for Spain as it opens Group B against the Netherlands, in a rematch of the 2010 final won by Spain 1-0 after extra-time.
Ramos has won 11 trophies in his career, including two European Championships and three Spanish league titles. Repeating as world champion would be quite a feat for an already glittering resume that has already earned the former Sevilla defender comparisons with Italian great Paolo Maldini.
"Fortunately I've been able to win a lot of titles with the national team and the club, so it's all just a bonus to also be named among the world's best defenders or players," said Ramos, speaking at a promotional event which saw him named a UNICEF ambassador from Spain. "I just try to stay focused and keep improving day-after-day."
Continue reading this story on the...