Spain ended their 44-year wait for a major international title with a 1-0 victory over Germany at UEFA EURO 2008, banishing some ghosts of the past. With the skilful individual performances and attacking style displayed during the competition, the team has recovered their confidence for the challenges to come.
The shattering 3-1 second-round defeat to France at Germany 2006 weighed heavy on Spanish minds, and coach Luis Aragones was forced to re-model the side. The fact that their conquerors went on to reach the final did not stop Aragones' side from receiving a barrage of criticism for yet another failure in the finals. Despite an impressive group phase in which they disposed of Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, Spain were once again unable to make the most of their individual riches, even falling short of their customary slot in the last eight.
Having appeared at all eight finals since Germany 1974, Spain's qualification record is undeniably impressive. The fact is, though, that for all their potential the Spanish had only one piece of international silverware to their name prior to the recent EURO success; the 1964 UEFA European Championship. Fourth place at Brazil 1950 remains their best ever finish in the FIFA World Cup™ and over the years the Iberians have endured more than their fair share of hard luck stories, falling to desperately unlucky quarter-final defeats at USA 1994 and Korea/Japan 2002, where they were ousted on penalties.
Even that seemingly flawless qualification record does not quite tell the whole story. The Spanish huffed and puffed their way to Germany, going unbeaten in their group but failing to stack up enough wins to earn an automatic place, leaving them to fight their way past Slovakia in the play-offs. The road to UEFA EURO 2008 was also a struggle, but after losing two of their opening three games, Spain recovered to finish in pole position in Group F.
Ball-playing midfielders Cesc Fabregas, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, along with Fernando Torres and David Villa, were key to this revival. With wise heads on young shoulders and boasting a dazzling array of skills, the fast-maturing Iberians created history with their eye-catching performances at EURO 2008. Their success has given the young side great confidence for the South Africa 2010 qualifying campaign. With Luis Aragones having moved on to coach Turkish side Fenerbahce, the Spaniards will be led into battle by former Real Madrid boss Vicente del Bosque.