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.''
In Brazil, Ramos is not only fantasizing about leading the defending champions to a record fourth straight major championship title, but the chance at redemption by beating the hosts on home soil. Brazil beat Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final last year.
''The nice thing about football is you can always get another chance, it always offer the chance of revenge,'' Ramos said. ''That's a big bonus. Spain is still world champions, so our expectations are high despite knowing a World Cup is very difficult to win.''
But Ramos was trying not to look to far ahead given that Spain's Group B is one of the tournament's toughest with the Netherlands, Chile, and Australia. Ramos has anchored a defense that has not conceded a goal in the elimination stages of the past two Euros and World Cup, a span of 10 games dating to 2008.
''The most important thing above all is to be able to play at the World Cup,'' said Ramos, who made his debut for Spain nearly a decade ago. ''We have a difficult group that we have to get through before we can start thinking about the final.''
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