In a sign of things to come, the eventual winners of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ touched down on South African soil after an impeccable qualifying campaign. Having kept faith with the core of the squad that triumphed at UEFA EURO 2008, as well as their much-admired playing style, La Roja won all ten of their qualifying matches and were the European Zone’s highest scorers with 28 goals. Nor were they slouches at the back, conceding just five times.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Prior to lifting the coveted Trophy in South Africa, so frequent were their exits at the last eight of the finals that Spain were said to be suffering from a ‘quarter-final jinx’. La Selección have appeared at 13 editions of the showpiece tournament, with their best performance before last year’s success coming at Brazil 1950. Having topped their first-round section, Spain went straight into the decisive four-team final group stage – where they finished fourth behind Uruguay, Brazil and Sweden.
The current crop
The reigning European and world champions, the onus is now on Spain to consolidate and defend their crowns. Coach Vicente del Bosque has continued to look for fresh new talents to boost his squad for the challenges ahead, particularly given the nucleus of his all-conquering squad will be approaching or have hit their 30s by the time Brazil 2014 qualifying begins. Key to the success of this process will be maintaining La Roja’s enviable dressing-room harmony and staying true to a playing philosophy based around touch, teamwork and skill on the ball.
The key players
Though there is no doubt that Spain’s embarrassment of midfield riches, featuring the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso, has been integral to their major trophy triumphs, La Selección are strong across the board. Indeed, one needs only mention the safe hands of goalkeeper Iker Casillas, the goalscoring nous of David Villa or Fernando Torres and a backline featuring the leadership of Carles Puyol and the class and increasing maturity of Gerard Pique. Nor can you forget younger players such as Pedro and Fernando Llorente who, given their impact since breaking into the squad, are also clearly here to stay.
Coach: Vicente del Bosque
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 (Winners), FIFA U-20 World Cup Nigeria 1999 (Winners), Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Barcelona 1992 (Winners)
Former stars: Luis Suarez, Emilio Butragueno, Fernando Hierro