spain, the red fury

early history

The Spanish Football Federation was founded in 1909, with the first national team being formed in 1920 in preparations for the Olympics. They would play their first international match on 28 August 1920, defeating Denmark 1-0 on a winner from Patricio Arabolaza. They then played hosts Belgium, who triumphed 3-1 and went on to win the tournament. Following the final match, Spain entered a consolation tournament with three other national teams. In the first match, Spain came from behind to defeat Sweden 2-1. They followed it up by defeating Italy 2-0 in the semi-finals, with Félix Sesúmaga scoring a brace. Shockingly, this was the first and only time Spain would beat Italy in an official match until 2012. The consolation tournament finals saw Spain face off against the Netherlands. Once again, they came out victorious, winning the silver medal in the process.

fun facts

  • Spain is largely credited with the creation of Tika-Taka football. Short passing and domination of possession.
  • Spain has won 1 World Cup and 3 European Championships
Spain’s World Cup victory 2010
  • Spain’s leading scorer is David Villa with 59 goals
David Villa

tika-taka and the world cup

By the early 2000’s, it was clear that Spain had an array of talented players in search of a system. Their midfield — consisting of players such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and David Silva — was both their greatest strength and their Achilles heel. Despite all of them being technically gifted and calm in possession, they were also physically inferior to the majority of their opponents. In addition to that, Spain’s defenders were seemingly prone to fatal errors.

To counter these weaknesses, Aragonés started employing his version of tiki-taka, a style of play that focused on passing and possession. This strategy was in full display at the Euro 2008, where Spain was placed into a group containing Russia, Sweden, and defending champions Greece. Though they ended up conceding a goal in each of these games, Spain emerged victorious every time, claiming first place in their group.

Their biggest test arrived in the quarter-finals, which pitted them against World Cup holders Italy. Their catenaccio strategy proved to be an effective counter to tiki-taka, with the match ending in a 0-0 draw and going to penalties. However, Spain proceeded to win the penalty shoot-out 4-2. They went on to defeat Russia (3-0) and Germany (1-0) to claim their first major title in 44 years. Despite scoring no goals, Xavi was voted player of the tournament.

Following this success, Aragonés stepped down as manager and was replaced by Vicente del Bosque. Under Del Bosque, Spain combined the tiki-taka strategy with a direct style of play that earned them the nickname La Furia Roja (“The Red Fury”). At the 2009 Confederations Cup, they won all three matches in their group. However, a semi-finals 0-2 loss to the United States served as a warning that they weren’t as invincible as they appeared.

The 2010 World Cup qualifiers saw Spain maintain first place with a perfect record of 10 victories in 10 games. They were off to a slow start at the tournament proper, though, losing 0-1 to Switzerland in their opener. They won the next two matches against Honduras (2-0) and Chile (2-1), but many pundits started suspecting that the tiki-taka style of play had run its course.

In the knockout stages, Spain didn’t concede a single goal on the way to their first World Cup title. They defeated Portugal and Paraguay 1-0, with both goals scored by David Villa. In the semi-finals, the scoreline remained the same, but it was Puyol who scored the winning goal. The finals against the Netherlands were a notably physical match, with 14 yellow cards given to players of both teams. Spain won 1-0 in extra time on a winner from Iniesta.