Spanish football and jinx have long gone hand-in-hand at the national level. But after claiming Euro 2008, Vicente del Bosque's Spain are ready to finally win the World Cup.
The 2008 winners climaxed a recent push by Spanish football leaders to give an emphasis to versatile ball-players who can dominate possession and create countless chances with their slick, patient passing game.
The 2008 architect, Luis Aragones, bolted shortly after winning his title and handed the reins over to del Bosque, who wisely kept much of the same strategies of the Euro winning side.
And now, La Roja are ready to shine on the world's biggest stage. “We're dreaming of lifting the trophy. It must be an incredible feeling,” Real Madrid defender Raul Albiol said recently.
“We have the enthusiasm, belief and desire, and we've also got a winning mentality. And aside from the quality of players we have, our team spirit, togetherness and the good atmosphere in the dressing room are all a real plus.”
Del Bosque's men certainly showed their dominance during the 2010 qualification campaign, winning all 10 games in Group 5 and leaving behind them Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey and Belgium. Spain scored 28 goals and gave up just 5 with their ace keeper and captain Iker Casillas between the posts.
Spain, however, have yet to reach the WC semis though they finished fourth at the 1950 WC. The Iberians have advanced to the quarters in 1934, 1986, 1994 and 2002, getting bounced in the Round of 16 at Germany 2006.
Del Bosque was dealing with some injuries to key players late in the season as Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas suffered a broken fibula while Liverpool striker Fernando Torres had knee surgery. Other injury concerns included Andres Iniesta, Villareal and Marcos Senna.
While the Euro 2008 success may cause some to be overconfident, Albiol said this team will remain grounded. “We kept our feet on the ground ahead of every game in World Cup qualifying, and we'll be treating the World Cup in the same way. If we do get knocked out it will be because our opponents were better on that day, not because we were big-headed,” he said. “On paper we're the favourites, but you have to prove that on the pitch ... Nobody is going to make it easy for us, we're going to have to work really hard.”
Coach del Bosque, 59, was an elegant midfielder for Real Madrid in the 1970s. He was promoted from the back room to become Real coach in 1999 and proved to be a surprise success, winning two Champions Leagues and two Spanish Ligas before being harshly sent packing in 2003.