POTCHEFSTROOM - Spain shook
off the tag of perennial also-rans to storm to victory at Euro
2008 and they have gone from strength to strength since then to
put themselves on the verge of a first World Cup triumph.
Despite a runners-up finish to France at Euro 1984 and a
gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, the Iberian nation
was haunted by what became known as the "curse of the quarters" - at Euros 1996 and 2000 and in the World Cups of 1994 and 2002
the last eight had proved a bitter stumbling block.
Spanish fans feared the worst at Euro 2008 when world
champions Italy battled to a 0-0 draw to force a quarter-final
penalty shootout, but that was when their luck changed and Iker
Casillas's saves sent them through.
Released from their jinx, self-belief swept Spain past
Russia and Germany to the title and they won plaudits for their
slick possession football and attacking flair.
The European Championship was only their second major
international title, coming 44 years after they beat the Soviet
Union 2-1 in the final of the same competition in 1964.
Coach Luis Aragones stepped down after Euro 2008 but his
replacement Vicente del Bosque has kept the core of the team
intact, making only minor adjustments to a well organised and
confident side who won all 10 matches in qualifying.
The only blip in their otherwise perfect run to the finals
was a surprise 2-0 defeat to the United States in the
semi-finals of the Confederations Cup in June 2009.
That upset ended a 35-match unbeaten run and Del Bosque used
it as a reminder to his players of the dangers of
After a shock 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in their opening
Group H match in South Africa, Spain have looked good for their
place in the final, outplaying Portugal, squeezing past a
defensive-minded Paraguay and comfortably seeing off a German
side that netted four goals against both England and Argentina
in their previous two matches.
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