Spanish national teams have always had great players in their teams. But always lacked success in major competitions like the Euro or World Cup Having won only one major trophy that is the 1964 European Championship where only 4 teams took part in its 88-year-old history.
This soon turned them into the only national team in history to win three consecutive major international titles and the first to win back-to-back European Championship titles as well as co-holding the record for the longest unbeaten international run in history. The 2008-12 Spanish team has a serious case to be one of if not the most dominant international dynasty in football history. These are the set of players who contributed to this dominant era of football –
Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi Hernandez, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fàbregas, Fernando Torres, Gerard Piqué, Carles Puyol, David Silva,
Santi Cazorla, Carlos Marchena, Jordi Alba, Pedro Rodríguez
Without these players, Spain wouldn’t have won it all and conquered the world.
The team wasn’t renowned for possession-based play with slight and technical midfielders. In fact, before the era of Tiki Taka. There was La Furia, a pretty basic style of football that involved trying to get into good wide areas and swinging in as many crosses as possible into the opposition box for the forwards to score. This involved a lot of physical effort, fighting spirit, and courage rather than prioritizing the possession of the ball. But after it failed in the 2006 World Cup, Changes had to be made.
The team went through constant changes throughout the three tournaments, but there were a few key pillars. In 2008 Euros, Aragonés opted for the 4-4-2 primarily. But with creative players in Iniesta and David Silva out wide rather than crossers. But in some matches, they played a 4-5-1 with Torres becoming the main forward, with Villa dropping into the midfield and Fàbregas turning Xavi in midfield in the games played with 4-1-4-1.
World Cup 2010
In 2010, Del Bosque tweaked the side rather than implement a total overhaul. With Senna and Marchena out of the side as compared to 2008, the changes had to be made. He opted for a 4-2-3-1 giving them high control in midfield.
In defense, Gerard Piqué had now established himself at Barcelona, and the holding role of the center was much harder to fill. But Del Bosque changed to a double pivot instead with Busquets and Alonso alongside each other and he opted for much pacier wingers in Pedro and often moving Villa to the wide left. Meanwhile, players like Fàbregas and Silva made massive contributions in the games they played.
Spain however lost their opening match to Switzerland, so they had to be more cautious and played much less expensively. After that defeat, they switched to a higher possession style with players in much closer proximity in case they lost the ball which resulted in their possession increasing from 50% in 2008 Euros to almost 60% in the World Cup. This resulted in Spain scoring just 8 times in seven matches to lift the trophy and showing the importance of possession football. Busquets and Alonso would also do their defensive duties which were used as a defensive precaution which allowed them to concede only two goals throughout the tournament and just one after their defeat to Switzerland in their first game.
This was raised in 2012, with formation morphing into strikerless and winger less 4-6-0. With the injury to Villa and Torres being out of form after his move to Chelsea. The mantle was taken up by a combination of Iniesta, Fàbregas, and Silva who were rotating false 9s and Spain dominated the ball with their possession rising once again to a whopping 63%. Although, this was criticized as their game lacked bite as they averaged 58 passes per shot compared to 44 at theWorld Cup and 33 in 2008 Euros.
Spain made their way forward methodically from only one side of the pitch, the left side, as Jordi Alba was much quicker from left-back and Arbeloa was much more defensive. The wide overlords were a major weapon for them. So instead of looking for the switch as most teams would do. They used a third-man runner and pinpoint passing to get through on goal, which turned out to be a successful move for them throughout the tournament.
Sadly, Euro 2012 was the end of an era for Spain, and haven’t managed to win any major tournament since then. Shockingly exiting the 2014 World Cup in the Group Stage. Losing to Italy in Round of 16 of 2016 Euro, Hosts Russia again in the Round of 16 of 2018 World Cup and most recently to Italy in the semi-finals of Euro 2020.
So is it the end of an era? Will Spain ever win a major trophy in the coming years?