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This year marks the eleventh anniversary of one of football’s greatest dynasties reaching its zenith. The Spanish national team of the late 2000s and early 2010s dominated the game like no other European country had hitherto managed. With patient yet exhilarating buildup, Vicente del Bosque’s side carved open opponents with surgical precision and became an almost unbeatable juggernaut.
Laying the groundwork
The foundation for Spain’s four-year period of world rule was put in place by Del Bosque’s predecessor, Luis Aragonés. Under Aragonés’s stewardship, La Furia Roja developed its famed tiki-taka more out of necessity than an actual desire to play that way.
After Spain crashed out of the 2006 World Cup in the Round of 16, Aragonés realized that his side wasn’t suited to a physical style of play and would be better served actively trying to control the ball. He was soon vindicated when Spain won the European Championship just two years later. It was the country’s first major honor since 1964 and the beginning of an era of unprecedented glory.
Building a dynasty
When Del Bosque took over after the Euros, rather than implementing his own distinct style, he sought to refine the system already in place, and he did so with devastating effect. Del Bosque became the first men’s national team coach in history to win their first 13 games in charge, and with him at the helm, La Furia Roja won all of its 2010 World Cup–qualifying matches.
After a surprise loss to Switzerland in the opening game of the tournament in South Africa, Spain skillfully dismantled everything the World Cup then threw at it, culminating in an iconic final with the Netherlands. The game was on a knife’s edge for 116 minutes, but an Andrés Iniesta half volley finally broke the deadlock, and Spain claimed its first-ever world championship.
No signs of complacency
Rather than resting on their laurels, the Spanish wanted even more silverware. At the 2012 Euros, Spain wasn’t as dominant throughout the tournament as expected, but it saved the best for last when it demolished Italy 4–0 in the final to become the only European nation with three consecutive major titles to its name.
During these four prosperous years, the core of Spain’s team was made up of mostly Barcelona players, and since the two sides employed a similar philosophy, it was easy to get the best out of Xavi, Iniesta, and others. This club-country tandem made for a power couple that ruled over football with unparalleled levels of success, the likes of which we will probably never see again.