Former Spain defender Fernando Hierro believes a change in mentality has been the main reason behind his country's sudden improvement at major championships. La Roja are in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time, while they were also crowned European champions in 2008 for the first time since 1964.
The Spaniards have regularly arrived at major tournaments with quality sides, but have constantly failed to deliver on the biggest stage. "What has changed is the mentality," said Hierro. "After 44 years, Spain are now the European champions. This is showing now in this tournament with the team reaching the semi-final. The team now has momentum, but what the win in 2008 has done is give the team more confidence and they have matured as well."
Vicente del Bosque's team will play Germany in the last four tomorrow after a not entirely convincing campaign so far. After losing to Switzerland in their opening game, they bounced back with wins over Honduras and Chile, before battling to 1-0 victories over Portugal and Paraguay in the last two rounds.
David Villa has been the outstanding player so far, with five goals to his name, but his strike partner Fernando Torres has struggled, though, and Hierro added: "Fernando is a very important player in the Spanish team. He came into the team after being out injured for five weeks. I think he is showing slowly, game after game, that he is improving. There is no doubt he brings great quality to the team in attack and I hope he will improve even more."
Former Netherlands star Ruud Gullit also defended Torres, saying: "He had a bad injury during the season. Therefore it now needs for him to get rhythm. I know I saw Torres all year and for me he is one of the best strikers in the world. I think the World Cup maybe came at the wrong moment for him. Still, it does not change my opinion on him. You can see he is working very hard, but just missing that little bit at the end."