TRANSFORMATION OF SPANISH FOOTBALL FROM PERENNIAL UNDERACHIEVERS TO THE BEST NATIONAL TEAM

In the 2002 World Cup quarter-final, history had been made.  For the first time in the World Cup history, a penalty shootout had been contested between a European team against an Asian team. The European team is non-other than the Spanish team, and the Asian team hosts South Korea. Both teams will progress to their first-ever World Cup semifinal, and the winner of these shootouts is South Korea. The win also further engraved the tag of a perennial underachiever for the Spanish football national team. In the next competition, they were knocked out by the eventual finalist France in the second round.  The Spanish football team have the best player. Still, like a curse, they always came unstuck in the quarter-final of the World Cup competition and also the continental European championship.

But in the hand of the former player Luis Aroganes and Vincente Del Bosque in the space of 3 competitions, Spain had vanished their perennial underachiever tag to the best national team comparable to the outstanding Brazillian national team in the past. It all started in the 2008 Euro, which Austria and Switzerland co-hosted. Their press and sports journalist had not given the Spanish national squad any hope or consideration after Luis Aroganes had made a controversial decision to omit the golden boy Raul from the team. The way the Spanish team will play had been made clandestine by Luis Aroganes. He has faith in the technically gifted player like Xavi, Iniesta, Fernando Torres added with the robust Carlos Puyol the defence. The manager had taken a considerable risk or, on his logic, a giant leap of faith to vanish the tag of perennial underachievers for the Spanish team.

Any doubt had been erased in the first 3 group stages. The Spanish team had gained three wins and a maximum point to progress to the quarter-final as group champion. In the stages where they had earned their tag as the perennial underachiever, the Spanish drawn against the Italian team. The match had ended in the deadlock in the regular time and extra time; hence a penalty shootout is needed; another curse that had been engraved for the Spanish team as they never had a penalty shootout win in any competition. However, this time, it had been different as the Spanish national had hit two birds with one stone as they had won the penalty shootout and broke the curse of being stuck in the quarter-final and progressed to the semifinal.  The momentum of being able to break a curse that had been holding them for so long had been put to good use by the Spanish national team as they had comprehensively beat Russian in the semifinal to reach their first-ever European final since 1984. Their perennial underachiever tag had been put to sleep altogether as they had beaten the German team in the final to win their 2nd European Championship, the last they had won 1964. After silencing the critics, Luis Aragones had stepped down, and Vincente Del Bosque had taken over his throne.

The Spanish, buoyed by their status of European Championship parallel with the rise of Guardiola’s Barcelona as the best club team in the modern era, had a high expectation in the 2010 World Cup, which is contradictory from the Spanish team in the past. Their play peaked with the midfield trio of Xavi, Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets had become a press-resistant midfield trio. Carlos Puyol and Gerrard Pique’s pairing is expected to perform impeccably for the Spanish national as they did in Barcelona. The Spanish team also had erased the club rivalries to create a united Spanish team that had put their club rivalries aside.

However, in the opening group stages games, a shock defeat to the Switzerland team had the high expectation morphed in a  doubt that the Spanish will crumble again and the performance in the previous Euro is a one-off. Last Spanish team many had fallen to, but these Spanish team is determined to make history as won the balance two games and progressed to the second round where they eliminated Portugal with a solid David Villa. In the quarter-final game against Paraguay, a penalty save by Iker Casillas had saved them. Again, David Villa scored the crucial winning goal to make the Spanish team progress to their first-ever World Cup semifinal. In the semifinal against Germany, a thunderous Carlos Puyol header had made them reached their first-ever World Cup final. The final against Netherland is a brutal encounter where the Spanish player had been fouled vigorously added by the crucial save by their goalkeeper Iker Casillas had put them in the contest, which had been decided in the extra time by the excellent volley Andreas Iniesta. The Spanish had become the World Cup champion for the first time in their history.

They had emulated West Germany in the ’70s, who had won the European Cup, followed by the World Cup. In the 2012 Euro co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland, they will have a chance to accomplish something that any national team had made, winning three straight major tournaments. In these Euro, Spain is the best team by miles, and they had stormed thought to the final and become the first two-time consecutive winner of Euro by trashing Italy 4-0 in the last. The Spanish team had been fabulous, and they had compared with the tremendous Brazillian squad in the ’70s.

From the contact unstuck in the quarter-final to the embarrassing penalty losses, the Spanish team had made numerous history in the space of 3 major tournaments. They had become the first team to won 2 consecutive Euro, the first team to won 3 straight major tournament trophies, the first European team to win the World Cup outside the continent. Finally, Iker Casillas had become the first national team captain to lift three straight major tournaments for a national team.  The Spanish armada outstanding continuous triumphant had come to downfall in the 2014 World Cup when they had knocked out from the first round of the group stages.

However, their astonishing feat of winning three straight significant tournaments starting from Euro 2008 is forever engraved in the footballing world mind and the history books. The Spanish team had annulled and erased their tag as the perennial underachiever to one of the best national teams in the footballing world is a marvellous achievement.

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