Spain kick off their World Cup campaign in just over two weeks’ time, but we take a look at when they sat on top eight years ago.
After qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Spain were placed in Group H alongside Chile, Honduras and Switzerland, a side they meet in a pre tournament friendly this year.
Being in Group H of course meant La Roja would have to wait five days after the tournament opener when Siphiwe Tshabalala’s strike for the hosts against Mexico shook the World to begin their campaign.
Unfortunately for Spain, their opening result would also shake the World but all for the wrong reasons.
The Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban was the venue for their opening game against the Swiss with La Roja understandably favourites to start their campaign with a win but seven minutes after the restart they fell behind.
Iker Casillas and Gerard Pique both tried and failed to clear the ball before Gelson Fernandes nipped in to prod Switzerland in front.
The closest Spain came was a thunderous Xabi Alonso strike which cannoned off the bar as the Swiss celebrated a famous victory while Spain faced the prospect of an early exit.
Spain Bounce Back
For their second game against Honduras, Vicente Del Bosque made two changes with Jesus Navas and Fernando Torres replacing Andres Iniesta and David Silva.
However it would be Camp Nou bound David Villa who would grab the headlines with a double to sink the Central Americans.
He fired a shot off the crossbar as an early warning but Honduras didn’t learn their lesson and Villa opened the scoring on 17 minutes when he cut inside to fire a shot past Noel Valladares.
‘El Guaje’ notched his second at the start of the second half with his shot from the edge of the area looping off Osman Chavez and over the keeper into the net.
Vila still had time to miss a penalty after Navas had been brought down in the area by Emilio Izaguirre but it made no difference to the overall outcome with La Roja moving level on points with the Swiss and three behind Chile ahead of their meeting with the South Americans in Pretoria in four days time.
Spain went into the game knowing a win would see them overtake the Chileans to top the group and things couldn’t have gone any better in the first half.
Villa grabbed his third in three games with a goal of the tournament contender, Chile ‘keeper Claudio Bravo racing from his goal to deny Torres but Villa would find the empty net with his left foot from 50 yards out on the left wing.
The returning Andres Iniesta then made it two with a well placed effort from Villa’s cutback.
The ten men of Chile halved the deficit in the second period with Rodrigo Millar’s deflected effort outfoxing Casillas but Spain held out and were joined in the last 16 by Chile following Switzerland’s goalless draw with Honduras.
Iberian Clash in Last 16
Spain’s reward for topping their group was a tough clash against Iberian neighbours Portugal in Cape Town on the 29th of June 2010.
The game proved to be extremely tight as expected with just one goal separating the two sides and it was of course that man Villa who got it, beating the keeper at the second attempt via the bar to set up a quarter final against Paraguay.
Returning to Johannesburg for that clash, La Roja certainly rode their luck for large parts of the game.
Nelson Valdez had the ball in the net for Paraguay but his effort was wrongly ruled out for offside before Oscar Cardozo saw his penalty saved by Casillas after a foul by Pique.
Spain were also awarded a penalty, which Xabi Alonso converted, only for referee Carlos Batres to rule it out and have it retaken after players had encroached the penalty area. Alonso’s second attempt was saved by the Paraguay goalkeeper.
With just seven minutes to go however, La Roja would break the deadlock. Pedro saw his shot hit the post but the ball broke to David Villa once more whose shot struck both posts before finding the net.
Spanish Make the Final
Spain’s semi-final clash with Germany took place in Durban, the scene of their opening match defeat to Switzerland and La Roja could only hope that lighting wouldn’t strike twice.
Indeed it did not as a bullet header 17 minutes from time by captain reliable Carles Puyol flew past Manuel Neuer in the German goal to send Spain to their first ever World Cup final.
Iniesta Strikes at the Death
The final against the Netherlands at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium would be the first final not to feature one of Italy, Brazil, Germany or Argentina.
The match itself was a dirty one, famed for Nigel De Jong’s horrendous karate kick challenge on Xabi Alonso with 14 yellow cards shown as well as a red for Holland’s John Heitinga.
In what was a cagey game, the best chance for the Dutch fell the way of Arjen Robben when he was put through one-on-one with Casillas but his effort was saved while Spain’s best came courtesy of a Sergio Ramos header which he fired wide.
With just minutes left of extra time and penalties looming large however, Spain would finally break the deadlock.
Cesc Fabregas found Andres Iniesta in the box and as the ball sat up, he struck it into the back of the net before racing away to celebrate, removing his shirt to a message for best friend Dani Jarque who had recently passed away, as the players, substitutes and coaching staff erupted into celebration in the corner.
This win was one of three in a row in terms of major tournaments with UEFA European Championship wins in Austria/Switzerland in 2008 and Poland/Ukraine in 2012 sandwiching their 2010 triumph.
Since then, Spain have faltered with a shock group stage exit in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after defeats to Holland and Chile, two sides they beat in 2010 and then another premature exit, this time at the hands of Italy in the last 16 of the Euros in France.
However there is belief that this could be their year to get back to the top of the World. Their group in Russia is relatively easy, Portugal, Iran and Morocco their opponents and despite tough sides in the tournament, France, Germany and Brazil amongst others, Spain have produced in pre tournament games so far and if they turn up, there is no reason why they can’t go all the way again to the final in Moscow on July 15th.