On June 29, 2008, Spain defeated Germany 1-0 in the finals of the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship (2008 Euro Cup) at Vienna to win the coveted cup.
The last time they won this championship (or any other major championship) was way back in 1964. Since then, Spain had not managed to win any major international football (soccer) tournament despite having some of the best individual players in its ranks.
Euro 2008 Champions Celebration, Madrid July 2008
In Spain, football is the most popular sport and has been played since the early 19th century. The nation has a glorious history in football. However, its domestic leagues earned more international acclaim than the national football team, which despite having a rich talent pool remained an underachiever on most occasions. Over the years, the Spanish national team gave many famous football legends to the football fraternity such as Alfredo Di Stefano, Kubala, Luis Suarez, Zamora, Santillana, Michel, and Butragueño, but when it came to performance as a national team, it found going past the initial rounds or the quarter finals in major tournaments such as the World Cup and the Euro Cup a hard task.
The Spanish national team’s lack of success in major tournaments was primarily attributed to a lack of team spirit and of the killer instinct.
Experts reasoned that the lack of team spirit was mainly due to the fact that there was intense rivalry between the different regions of Spain. They pointed out that the various regions were divided as far as culture and political outlook were concerned. In such a situation, it was very difficult for the members of the team to play as a unit, they said.
Some analysts considered the appointment of José Luis Aragonés Suárez (Aragonés) as coach of the Spanish national team a seminal moment in turning around the fortunes of the Spanish football team. Aragonés’ appointment came shortly after Spain’s debacle in the 2004 Euro Cup.
By the 2000’s, the underachievement of the Spanish national team had become somewhat legendary. Cesar Menotti, famous Argentine coach and football player, once famously said that Spain would never win anything in the international arena until the team decided if it wanted to be “the bull or the bullfighter”.
Shortly after Spain’s debacle in the 2004 Euro Cup, coach Iñaki Sáez was replaced by Aragonés. The veteran Spanish player and coach who was in his mid-60s, was entrusted with the responsibility of rebuilding the team for the 2006 World Cup (Refer to Exhibit I for a note on Aragonés). Aragonés soon realized that the major problem with the team was not lack of talent – in fact, it had some of the best players of the country – it was its lack of unity and positive attitude which were the big stumbling blocks.
Luis Aragones, Spanish Euro 2008 Coach
Spain 2008 Cup Campaign
Before embarking on their 2008 Euro Cup campaign, the squad went to meet the 1964 winning team to draw inspiration from them. “We must go with a winning mentality. After that: what will be, will be. But psychologically, it must be nothing but positive to achieve the championship,” said Aragonés.
Analysts commented that the tournament saw a new Spanish team, made up of not just a bunch of talented players but a group of players who had learnt to put the team’s need ahead of individual aspirations.
Experts said that it was the team spirit of the Spanish team that had made the difference. The team had always had great players but this time, they played as a team rather than a group of individuals and placed the team’s interests above individual aspirations.