How Spain Rose to Become the Most National Dominant Force in Soccer History
It hasn't always been about Spain.
As we head in to this summer's Confederations Cup, la Roja arrive having won the last two European Championships with a World Cup sandwiched nicely in the middle of them—it's obvious why they'll be most people's favorites in Brazil in the coming weeks.
Since 2008, they've been the team to beat; boasting a style more brilliant than Brazil's, midfielders greater than Holland's and depth of talent which makes the Grand Canyon look shallow. Before that though, they fell into a category which many international teams struggle to break away from: perennial underachievers.
A European Championship win, as the host nation, in 1964 lessened in weight as Spain dragged themselves through the 80's, 90's and into the 2000's.
Like England, they were riding waves from the past. Both had great leagues, packed with some of the world's best sides and huge domestic support; neither could quite find their feet internationally though.
Having failed to make an impression when the World Cup was in their garden in 1982, they were beaten by France in the final of Euro '84. It was mainly lows after that. If failing to qualify for Euro '92 was the bottom, losing on penalties to South Korea in the World Cup 10 years later is remembered as a close second.
While their national team continued to struggle to live up to any sort of reputation at tournaments though, platforms were being built to ensure their future would not continue in the same pattern.
Roots for success
Domestically, Spanish football has many underlying issues.
Real Madrid and Barcelona's dominance is a cause for concern—particularly financially. The Fuentes case regarding doping in sport, mainly cycling, brought forward accusations of drugs being used by Spanish teams, via The Telegraph, while match fixing allegations resurfaced as recently as this year following a match between Levante and Deportivo de La Coruna, via the BBC.
While Spanish football has shown little aptitude, yet, for fixing those problems, they deserve great credit for acknowledging what needed changing to ensure a blossoming future of la Furia Roja.
Roberto Martinez, via The Daily Mail, points to a turning point somewhere around the time the Olympics were held in Barcelona in 1992. The new Everton boss says it was a period which saw the country garner a new wave of togetherness for the pursuit of sporting excellence.
A plan was put together, a new vision, to focus on bringing players through together—from the bottom to the top. They now have three times as many coaches as England.
Prioritizing technical development, one of the main focuses, allowed two players to develop particularly strong. Two players who would later become uniting forces in the squad after Luis Aragones took the bold, but ultimately justified decision, to drop Raul in 2006; Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernandez.
While Aragones laid the platforms for the new batch of Spanish talent to play tiki-taka football, taking the Dutch's total football to the next level according to journalist Rafael Honigstein, Casillas and Xavi helped block out the shadow once cast by the divide between loyalties to Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Two years later, Andres Iniesta was the match winner as the World Cup was won against Holland in South Africa, and in 2012 they took Italy apart 4-0 to emphasize the grip they hold on international football.
Layered beneath the trophies which makes the front pages, there's even more success as their youth teams continue to impress at all age levels; suggesting Spanish dominance is not ready to shuffle into retirement any time soon.
They hold the European U-21 title, and have just qualified for the semifinals of the 2013 edition—they've also won the last two U-19 European Championships and are heavily fancied in this summer's U-20 World Cup.
Their method, technique aside, sees them bringing players through together—not rushing them into the first team. David de Gea, Thiago Alcantara and Isco are among those with the U-21's at the moment, developing as a team before taking the next step.
It's all contributed to the rise of Spain, which means they now swan off around the world to play exotic countries for mega bucks in international breaks. They had the foresight to invest in this strategy though, they deserve to reap the rewards.
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