Spain: The Stories Behind The Shirts - 2010 National Team
Written by David Garrido
European champions, star-studded squad, players at the peak of their powers. This was Spain’s biggest shot at conquering the planet, having flattered to deceive for so long.
In the 48 games before the 2010 World Cup, “La Roja” had tasted defeat just the once. The pre-tournament favourites tag was more than justified, despite coach Vicente del Bosque claiming they had to remain humble. But soon enough, they had been humbled.
Switzerland stunned Spain with a 1-0 victory in their group opener, blunting their famed “tiki-taka” style, so it meant del Bosque had to get his team into knockout mode two games early, and they responded: David Villa’s two goals dealt with Honduras, while in the deciding match against Chile, Andrés Iniesta (who had recovered from hamstring trouble) and Villa again put them in control. Top spot secured, but there was still a long way to go.
From then on in, it was a test of how Spain could deal with the expectations that weighed heavy on their shoulders. The fact that the title was secured with successive 1-0 victories told its own story – no matter the opponent, they simply found the solutions to progress.
In the last 16, Barcelona signing Villa won his personal battle with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and it could have been more had it not been for Eduardo in the Portuguese goal. At this point, to add to the pressure, the odds on La Roja shortened considerably as several big teams fell in the first knockout round: France, Italy, Argentina, Brazil and England.
Nerves were jangling in their quarter-final against Paraguay, Xabi Alonso missing a re-taken penalty after the South Americans had spurned a spot-kick opportunity themselves, and they needed Villa to rescue them again in the 83rd minute, his shot hitting both posts before going in. Paraguay’s attempts to slow the game down at every opportunity almost worked, neutralising Spain’s possession-based style, and yet this squad boasted so many talents to prise open a defence – Xavi, Sergi Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Iniesta, Villa, Fernando Torres…
The wake-up call was heeded. A much-improved display, a midfield masterclass involving not just passing but also pressing outwitted Germany in Spain’s first ever World Cup semi-final, and yet the winner was remarkably simple: Xavi corner, Carles Puyol header, goal.
And so to the final. The Netherlands, themselves having never lifted that famous gold trophy, opted for brutal brawn over brilliant brain, and again, they pushed Spain to the limit. They picked up nine yellow cards, two of them for Johnny Heitinga who got sent off in extra time, and almost took the game to penalties. But justice would be done. The team who tried to play the proper way got the victory they so desired and ultimately deserved…
In the 116th minute, Jesús Navas burst forward with the ball from deep inside his own half, and after a flowing move involving fellow substitutes Torres and Cesc Fàbregas, eventually it ended up with Iniesta who teed himself up and fired home. In celebrating the goal, Iniesta took off the smart navy change top to reveal a message in Spanish: “Dani Jarque, always with us.” Dani Jarque was the captain of Espanyol, Barcelona’s near neighbours and rivals, and a close friend of the Spain number 6. He had died the previous year of a heart attack.
A touching end to a testing but memorable tournament for Spain, and this golden generation would go on to cement their legacy by winning Euro 2012 for good measure.
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