The Spain national football team (Spanish: Selección de fútbol de España) represents Spain in men’s International association football and is controlled by the Royal Spanish Football Federation, the governing body for football in Spain. The current head coach is Julen Lopetegui after Vicente del Bosque stepped down following Euro 2016. The Spanish side is commonly referred to as La Roja (“The Red One”), La Furia Roja (“The Red Fury”), La Furia Española (“The Spanish Fury”) or simply La Furia (“The Fury”). Spain became a member of FIFA in 1904 even though the Spanish Football Federation was first established in 1909. Spain’s national team debuted in 1920. Since then, the Spanish national team has participated in a total of 14 of 20 FIFA World Cups and 10 of 15 UEFA European Championships.
Spain are one of eight national teams to have been crowned FIFA World Cup champions, having won the 2010 tournament in South Africa, defeating the Netherlands 1–0 to become the first European team to win the title outside Europe as well as having won back-to-back European titles in Euro 2008 and Euro 2012, defeating Germany and Italy in the respective finals. These three successive titles make them the only national team so far with three consecutive wins of either the applicable continental championship or the World Cup. From 2008 to 2013, a six-year span, the national team won FIFA Team of the Year, the second-most of any nation, behind only Brazil. Between November 2006 and June 2009, Spain went undefeated for a record-equalling 35 consecutive matches before their upset loss to the United States, a record shared with Brazil. The team’s achievements have led many commentators, experts and former players to consider the 2010 and 2012 Spanish sides among the best ever international sides in world football.
Iker Casillas holds the record for most appearances for the Spanish team with 167 since 2000. He is one of eight Spanish players to have reached 100 caps. Sergio Ramos has played for Spain 148 times since his debut in 2005 and is the second most capped player. Xavi is third, having played 133 times between 2000 and 2014.
David Villa holds the title of Spain’s highest goalscorer, scoring 59 goals since 2005, during which time he played for Spain on 98 occasions. Raúl González is the second highest goalscorer, scoring 44 goals in 102 appearances between 1996 and 2006. Fernando Torres is the third highest goalscorer with 38 goals in 110 appearances since 2003.
Between November 2006 and June 2009, Spain went undefeated for a record-equaling 35 consecutive matches before their loss to the United States in the Confederations Cup, a record shared with Brazil, and included a record 15-game winning streak. In the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Spain became the first European national team to lift the World Cup trophy outside Europe; along with Brazil, Germany and Argentina, Spain is one of the four national teams to have won the FIFA World Cup outside its home continent.
Style of play
Tiki-taka is, above all, a systems approach to football founded upon team unity and a comprehensive understanding in the geometry of space on a football field.
Tiki-taka has been variously described as “a style of play based on making your way to the back of the net through short passing and movement”, a “short passing style in which the ball is worked carefully through various channels”, and a “nonsensical phrase that has come to mean short passing, patience and possession above all else”. The style involves roaming movement and positional interchange amongst midfielders, moving the ball in intricate patterns, and sharp, one or two-touch passing. Tiki-taka is “both defensive and offensive in equal measure” – the team is always in possession, so doesn’t need to switch between defending and attacking. Commentators have contrasted tiki-taka with “Route One physicality” and with the higher-tempo passing of Barcelona and Arsène Wenger’s 2007–08 Arsenal side, which employed Cesc Fàbregas as the only channel between defence and attack. Tiki-taka is associated with flair, creativity, and touch, but can also be taken to a “slow, directionless extreme” that sacrifices effectiveness for aesthetics.
Tiki-taka has been used successfully by the Spanish national team to win UEFA Euro 2008, 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012.
Sid Lowe identifies Luis Aragonés’ tempering of tiki-taka with pragmatism as a key factor in Spain’s success in Euro 2008. Aragonés used tiki-taka to “protect a defense that appeared suspect, maintain possession and dominate games” without taking the style to “evangelical extremes”. None of Spain’s first six goals in the tournament came from tiki-taka: five came from direct breaks and one from a set play. For Lowe, Spain’s success in the 2010 World Cup was evidence of the meeting of two traditions in Spanish football: the “powerful, aggressive, direct” style that earned the silver medal-winning 1920 Antwerp Olympics team the nickname La Furia Roja (“The Red Fury”) and the tiki-taka style of the contemporary Spanish team, which focused on a collective, short-passing, technical and possession-based game.
Analyzing Spain’s semi-final victory over Germany at the 2010 World Cup, Honigstein described the Spanish team’s tiki-taka style as “the most difficult version of football possible: an uncompromising passing game, coupled with intense, high pressing”. For Honigstein, tiki-taka is “a significant upgrade” of Total Football because it relies on ball movement rather than players switching position. Tiki-taka allowed Spain to “control both the ball and the opponent”.