Looking at the performances of Spain in recent times and considering the players that they’ve had at their disposal throughout their 44-year trophy drought, it’s been an almost bizarre wait for success.
However, their current squad, with the likes of Liverpool striker Fernando Torres leading its line, seems to be a golden generation, primed to make up for lost time.
The 25-year-old marksman of course can take great credit for bringing an end to Spanish suffering, but what are his theories on why it took so long for them to make the breakthrough on the international stage?
“We’ve always gone into major tournaments as one of the favourites but we always faltered along the way. There was always something missing,” Torres says.
Asked what that missing element might have been, Torres suggests, “ambition, especially in the quarterfinals when we often lost”.
“I think that the semifinal against Italy [in 2008] is when we really won the European Championship,” he says. “And then in the final against Germany we went in as giants and showed to ourselves that Spanish football is going through a great period and we now have to make the most of it.”
Make the most of it La Roja Furia (The Red Fury) certainly have, they are currently ranked number one in the world on the back of being unbeaten since February 2007. They have also made an impressive start to the 2010 Fifa World Cup preliminaries as they currently sit atop Europe’s Group 5 (with a full haul of points from four matches), ahead of Turkey and Belgium.
Taking all this into consideration, they should be good bets to triumph – should they qualify – at South Africa 2010 then. “El Niño”, though, feels that it would be better if they, as a team, were a little more circumspect than that.
“I think there are bigger favourites than us, even though we are the European champions,” Torres says. “There’s always Italy, Germany, France and, above all, Argentina and Brazil. Those are teams that have already won Fifa World Cups; national sides that always get to the latter stages and they will always be the favourites in these kinds of tournaments.
“Maybe Spain deserve to be included now after the European Championship and given our form in the qualifiers. What we do know is that more and more teams are respecting us, just like we used to respect other sides. You can see that out on the pitch.”
What makes Spain’s continuing excellent form ever the more remarkable is that they’ve done this despite experiencing a change of coach. After their European triumph, Luis Aragones vacated the post and former Real Madrid manager Vicente Del Bosque assumed it. Interestingly, Del Bosque had not had a senior coaching job since 2005 but Torres feels he did well to not fix that which was not broken.
“The new coach has given continuity to the ideas of his predecessor. He is also trying to exert a little of his own influence on the group but he has made the most of what was already in place. I think he was very wise to stick with what was working but I think that we can still improve.
“He’s trying to make us even better but there’s a strong case for not making too many changes when things are working well,” Torres says.
Of course, Torres, with 18 goals in his 59 caps, will be vital to their prospects in South Africa come 2010; but he is well aware that there’s also the not-so-little matter of this year’s Fifa Confederations Cup to compete for.
“It’s the first time we’ve qualified for the Fifa Confederations Cup and we’re looking forward to it. As with every competition at this level it’s sure to be a great event and it will be excellent preparation for the Fifa World Cup next year.”
“Can they win this too?”, will be the question on everybody’s lips come June 2009. Torres hedges his bets when he says, “We’ll try to be at our best and hopefully the fans in South Africa, as well as supporting their own national side, will adopt Spain as their second favourite team.”
Beyond that, the likeable Madrilenian suggests, people should just wait and see.
“I’ll be looking forward to seeing them in June for the Fifa Confederations Cup in South Africa. Ke Nako!”
- Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Source: 2010 Fifa World Cup Update Magazine
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