Spain’s glory in South Africa 2010 was a World Cup of firsts: South Africa became the first African country to host the tournament, and Spain became the first new nation to win the competition since France in 1998. Today we look back at their road to glory.
After decades of underachievement and early exits, Spain finally fulfilled its World Cup destiny by becoming only the eighth nation to win the tournament. The Spaniards were coming off their victory at Euro 2008, and travelled to South Africa after winning 49 times and losing just two of their previous 54 matches since November 2006. Doubts remained about Spain’s ability to win “the big one” ahead of this tournament, but they ended up answering those questions in emphatic fashion, overcoming an early setback to easily brush aside opponents in one classy display after another.
Group H: Spain 0-1 Switzerland
If Del Bosque‘s cautionary words were not enough to alert total football’s current guardians of the potential pitfalls that South Africa possessed, then their Group H opener against Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Switzerland provided a timely reminder that anything short of their clinical best would leave the exit door off the latch. Despite Gelson Fernandes netting a 51st minute winner for the Swiss, Spain didn’t do a whole lot wrong in this tie, probing in typically patient fashion but ultimately lacking the crucial finishing touch to beat a very much in-form Diego Benaglio and lost 1-0 in a result very few had predicted beforehand. Andres Iniesta‘s troublesome hamstring was not quite right and he left this game on 76 minutes as a precautionary measure, which hindsight will applaud as a telling intervention from the coach after the Barcelona playmaker’s contributions throughout the month that followed this defeat.
Group H: Spain 2-0 Honduras
Prior to this game, all the talk from the Spain camp was that they faced two ‘finals’ just to keep their World Cup dream alive – just days into their quest for World Cup glory, la Furia Roja were already in knockout mode. The confidence instilled in the Spaniards since the success of Euro 2008 was clearly in evidence, though, as they swept the Central American challenge aside with a convincing team display as all bar a rusty Fernando Torres lived up to their billing as world class individual contributors in a first class side. David Villa netted in either half to complete a comfortable win, but also missed a late penalty which would have given him a hat-trick, and ultimately the prize for being the tournament’s top goalscorer.
Group H: Chile 1-2 Spain
In many ways this final group game was all-or-nothing for Spain as they knew a win would leave them top while defeat could result in the unthinkable early trip home. Marcelo Bielsa’s side were competitive in the early stages, but two goals in the first half from Iniesta and Villa put Del Bosque’s men well and truly in control. Their resilient defence weathered a brief period of pressure from Chile in the second half, after Rodrigo Millar gave la Roja hope, before seeing the game out to fulfill pre-tournament expectations by claiming top spot in the group.
Round of 16: Spain 1-0 Portugal
Portugal’s failure to go for the jugular against Brazil in their final Group G contest set up this mouth-watering encounter with their Iberian neighbours. It was Cristiano Ronaldo‘s chance to shine against the familiar faces from the land of his employers, but the fact that goalkeeper Eduardo emerged as the best player in the Portuguese lineup told its own tale. Barcelona forward Villa once again took responsibility for an otherwise goal-shy Spanish side, firing home at the second attempt shortly after the hour mark after the muscle of Fernando Llorente had added a new dimension to the Spain attack, which Portugal’s defence struggled to deal with.
Quarter-Final: Paraguay 0-1 Spain
With France, Italy, England, Argentina and Brazil all having fallen by the wayside at this juncture, expectations in Madrid were escalating at a similar rate to the searing temperatures on the nation’s Mediterranean coast. Again Del Bosque stressed the importance of humility and respect for their opponents, and after both sides missed spot-kicks, Spain eventually got their just reward as Villa netted eight minutes from time to send them through to an historic semi-final.
Semi-final: Germany 0-1 Spain
In many respects this was the final everyone wanted to see as arguably the two best footballing sides in the competition squared off in a repeat of the Euro 2008 final. In the end, though, Joachim Loew’s side, minus suspended talisman Thomas Mueller, failed to replicate the form they had shown in the earlier rounds. Although the semi-final was keenly contested and quite evenly matched, Spain took full advantage of die Mannschaft’s hesitancy as veteran defender Carles Puyol became just their third goalscorer at this year’s finals, rising majestically to power Xavi’s corner home with a magnificent header and secure a first ever World Cup final for the Spaniards.
2010 World Cup Final: Netherlands 0-1 Spain
Just as their tournament had begun, Spain’s glorious finale was refereed by Howard Webb. For large periods, the game was dominated by some over-zealous and ultimately illegal challenges, yet the English official, despite dishing out 13 yellow cards, did his level best to ensure that all 22 men finished the game. In the end, Johnny Heitinga gave Webb no option in extra-time after Arjen Robben had spurned a couple of gilt-edged chances to give the Dutch shirt its first gold star. Spain seized the opportunity, and their patience, refusal to bow to Holland’s combative style and total dedication to total football got its 36 centimeter gold & malachite reward when Iniesta fired home to etch La Furia Roja’s deserved place in World Cup history