A decade ago today, a goal by Iniesta led the Spanish national team to victory in South Africa. The ‘golden generation’ won the World Cup for the first time. We review the main events that led to this legendary triumph:
On the night of 11 July 2010, Spain was experiencing one of the most unforgettable moments in its recent history: it was in the running to win the World Cup, in South Africa. A single goal was enough to fulfill the dream of several generations, who had seen how the Spanish clubs -with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at the forefront- won all the major titles, while the Spanish National Team missed the coveted World Cup time and time again.
Minute 116. Overtime for the final between the Netherlands and Spain. Andrés Iniesta kicks the ball, which lands in the rival’s goal. Spain obtains its first World-title in football.
The trajectory of the player from Fuentealbilla (Albacete) in the championship represented perfectly the path of the national team in South Africa. At the beginning of the game he was experiencing discomfort due to month old injuries; but his determination and perseverance ended up making him the man of the game and decisive in the moment of breaking the tie in a tough match against the Dutch. He was responsible for that world-famous goal.
The ‘golden generation’
But the merit of this victory was not only due to Iniesta, it belonged to a group of Spanish footballers who have gone down in history as the ‘golden generation’. They arrived at the World Cup in South Africa, as winners of the 2008 European Championship, with coach Luis Aragonés. Not satisfied with this victory, nor that of the World Cup, in 2012 they proceeded to win the Euro Cup championship.
Iker Casillas, Andrés Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernández, David Villa, Cesc Fábregas, Fernando Torres, Víctor Valdés, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Álvaro Arbeloa, Fernando Llorente, David Silva and Pepe Reina made up the golden team that took ‘La Roja’ to the top of world football.
Vicente del Bosque
If the players of the ‘golden generation’ managed to lift the World Cup in 2010, it was also thanks to the vision and hard work of their coach, Vicente del Bosque, who had taken over from Luis Aragonés.
Del Bosque, who played for Real Madrid from 1968 to 1984, and who would later become its coach, continued the successful path started by his predecessor, achieving the sought after ‘triple-header’ for Spain: two European Cups and a World Cup, a feat that only Uruguay, Italy, France and Brazil have obtained, besides our country.
Victory in 26 days and 8 goals
Despite the teams incredible trajectory in qualifying for the World Cup, Spain lost its first game on 16 June to Switzerland, 0-1. After defeating Honduras, 2-0, the third game against Chile was final and they advanced to the 16th round, where they scored twice against the Chilean team.
On 29 June, a goal by Villa eliminated Portugal from the World Cup and put Spain in the quarter-finals. It was also Villa’s goal that won the match against Paraguay and sent the national team to its first semi-finals since 1954. In the semi-final against Germany, a single goal, this time by Puyol, clenched the match and propelled them into the final. The rest is history.
The story of ‘La Roja’
Although the 2010 World Cup consecrated its position as one of the world’s best football teams, the Spanish national team already had a long and successful history behind it. Created in 1920 and known in Spain as “La Furia Española”, “La Furia Roja” or simply “La Roja”, it has played in fifteen World Cups, hosting the one held in 1982. It also qualified for the Euro Cup championship ten times, playing four finals and three-time champions; the team also participated in two editions of the Confederations Cup.
It currently occupies seventh place in the historical classification of the World Cups and seventh place in the list of winners, equalling that of the English team.
A cause for celebration
Immediately after Iniesta’s goal and team captain Iker Casillas lifting the trophy in an image that will go down in history, thousands of Spaniards took to the streets to celebrate a seemingly impossible victory.
A similar scene took place a day later, when the heroes of the Spanish national team arrived in Madrid. Aboard a double-decker bus, the players drove through some of the capitals most emblematic sites for four hours until they ended up in the Puente del Rey esplanade, where the players addressed the 250,000 people who had gathered to celebrate their victory.
The celebrations ended with the “We are the Champions” song by the group, Queen. An anthem that will forever mark the triumph of ‘La Roja’ in 2010.