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In football, a golden generation is supposed to reach the peaks of the beautiful game: to win trophies and dominate the world over and this is exactly what this outgoing Spain team did.
Under the stewardship of Vicente del Bosque, La Furia Roja won the 2008 and 2012 European Championship, but neither could compare to their 2010 FIFA World cup triumph.
They were truly a galaxy above other teams.
When the Euro 2008 tournament began, nobody gave them any stern consideration as possible winners – much like no one gave Italy a chance in this year’s edition.
The Spain national team that was well balanced on all fronts, with a classy yet at times boring style of play.
Their Barcelona midfield was a threat at all times, with Xavi and Iniesta dictating the tempo, and Marcos Senna of Villarreal doing all the cleaning up.
Fernando Torres at the time was electric and had no respect for any defence.
Likewise their defensive setup was brilliant, with their best defender Carles Puyol pulling all the strings at the backline.
Then came the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. By then, it was a no-brainer who were the favourites.
Starting the tournament with a defeat against Switzerland, the Spain national team pushed on undeterred, winning with small margins and keeping the ball to frustrate even the best of opponents.
Again, there was no much change in the midfield, as Xavi and Iniesta still ran the show. It was therefore not a surprise when Iniesta scored the winner against a frustrated Dutch side, who really had it in their hands.
At this time, their dominance had peaked even at club level. Real Madrid and Barcelona always reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, and Atletico Madrid being the then the Europa League specialists.
Fast-forward to Euro 2012, and still Xavi, Iniesta and Xabi Alonso were running the show.
Even Torres who was having a rather disappointing stint at Chelsea still managed to score in the final. There was no opposition that could beat them at the time, and so they retained their trophy.
During this period, Atletico Madrid had added to the ranks of Champions League heavyweights while Malaga had managed a quarterfinal berth in their debut season.
Dismal World Cup tournament… a sad turning point
The 2014 World Cup had the first instance of change occurring to the Del Bosque’s Spain squad. Diego Costa was introduced but failed to gel to their style of play.
Their possession football was not yielding any fruits, their pace-less defence was starting to show, and a hammering by the Dutch passed a judgement on them: their time of domination had hit a brick wall.
Euro 2016 has seen a whole load of changes.
David de Gea has come in goal for the ever-present Iker Casillas although their defence hasn’t changed much with Pique and Sergio Ramos still present.
Iniesta is without Xavi and Alonso, and the forward line has newbies in Morata, Vazques and Aduriz.
Therefore, it was not a surprise to many that a rather-undermined Italy knocked them out.
Time to rebuild
The Spaniards now have two years to rebuild.
Their World Cup campaign might have new faces and if they gel together, the new Spain national side can launch another era of world dominance.
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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