The day that changed our history took place on the 11th of July of 2010. Iniesta gave us our first World Cup on that day. Where were you at? Let´s start from the beginning.
Spain started their international kingdom with the 2008 Eurocup win, coached by the eternal Luis Aragonés, with whom we broke, among many other cruises, the fact of being able to beat Italy on a quarter-final penalty shootout. For me that was they key moment where it all headed the right way, no one stopped us since then, until we closed the loop again versus Italy on the 2012 Kiev Eurocup final with an exhibition. Three peat and a dynasty.
Our first World Cup:
The national team arrived to South Africa as one of the most favorite squads to win the trophy. You could perceive the excitement on the people. We came from breaking a 44 years drought without winning anything and it seemed that this team had earned a winning character: it was our moment.
The first setback:
It couldn´t have started worse for us with a very unexpected lost to Switzerland on the debut after a goal that came from multiple rebounds despite having total control of the ball throughout the entire match. Piqué had stitches on his eyebrow and Xabi Alonso left the crossbar shaking of the Mosses Mabhida Stadium in Durbán, from where we left with no points. What a mace to start, but even more taking into account that no one had ever won the World Cup after losing the first match. We had played out our margin of error, and now there was no any other option but winning the next possible six games.
Villa´s brace made us believe again:
Spain approached the second match against Honduras aware of the fact that another unfortunate day like the Switzerland one would send us home. A priori seemed to be an easy rival, but the game had to be played. Luckily Villa showed us the way with a pair that gave us our first victory. Now we started to head the right direction.
Heads or tails versus Chile:
Our last match of the group stage faced us off against a very uncomfortable and defensive opponent, the typical team you do not want to play against. Chile, coached by Bielsa, headed to this game with 2 out of 2 wins and 6 points on their pocket, but they had not qualified yet for the next round. Villa appeared again at the exact time to break through with an astonishing shot with his left foot from half the field after an imprudence by keeper Bravo. Iniesta increased our lead right away thanks to a magnificent finish after a great passing combination with Villa, and even better, Chilean player Estrada was sent off on that same play because he tripped Torres on his run. The game was going perfect, but a goal by Millar right after halftime put our classification in danger. However, the draw on the other match between Honduras and Switzerland qualified both Spain in the first spot and Chile in the second one. Good deal for everyone. Portugal was waiting for us on the round of 16.
A dream play to break through:
The match against Portugal could only be propelled through a magnificent action by the Spanish “short” midfielders, ball magicians that can detect tiny gaps where no one else sees them. Something like that happened to Xavi on the winning goal play: The Catalan midfielder realized about Villa´s run despite he did not have the ball at that time, and when he received it from a rebound by the defense, he took an outstanding back heel touch towards the striker in order to knock down the Portuguese wall. Villa finished while he was falling down to the ground and the ball hit the crossbar before going in and send us to the quarterfinals. Cristiano could only spit on the TV camera after the game on a reality check. Now it was time to overcome the quarterfinals barrier.
Three posts to end with our quarterfinals cruise:
No doubt that the match against Paraguay was an inflection point, where it happened all kinds of variables, but the big difference was that this time we made it through: Paraguay parked the bus and had a golden opportunity to put themselves ahead on the scoreboard through a penalty kick taken by Cardozo, but second keeper Reina, who had studied his shots, let Casillas know where the shot was going to go, and “our Saint” saved us.
Villa provoked a penalty thanks to a push by Alcaraz on the next play, and like I said, everything happened: Xabi Alonso took it and scored at first, but the referee ordered to repeat the throw as some players entered the box before the shot. As the midfielder said, he did not know where to shoot to in the second attempt, and he missed. Keeper Justo Villar guessed the side and saved it, but Cesc Fabregas got the rebound and he was tackle by the goalkeeper. Incomprehensibly, the referee did not make the call. The game seemed to be destined to the draw.
The “short” ones took charge of lighting us up again on the 81st minute: triangulation by Iniesta, Cesc and Xavi that broke down Paraguay´s entire midfield; Iniesta left on the ground two defenders thanks to his most characteristic dribble “the croquette” and assisted Cesc right in front of the keeper, but his shot hit the left post (the first one); Villa received the rebound, sent it to the right post (the second one) and the ball went to the left post (the third one) throughout the goal line before finally going in and qualifying us for the semifinals. A paintball play to get over our biggest slab in the history of our World Cups.
And Tarzan flew:
The match versus Germany was solved by “Tarzan” Puyol through a perfect header on a corner kick taken by Xavi. Puyol flew over the entire German defense, including his teammate Piqué, and once again he made justice on the scoreboard with another short lead that never reflected Spain´s huge superiority. Xavi said that as soon as he hit the ball and saw Puyol jumping, he knew that that was going to go in and he was not wrong. We were in the world cup final.
The Saint and the Iniestazo:
The final against Holland was a dirty game. Holland did not have any other option but stopping us with constant faults due to Spanish huge superiority. Xabi Alonso was one of the ones who suffered it the most with a criminal tackle by De Jong, and Van Bommel took care of Iniesta, but that did not work.
The Saint appeared again on a crucial moment to save us with his right foot on a 1vs1 with Robben. This world cup was meant for us.
Iniesta concluded the achievement in the 116th minute that we will always remember: Navas made an impressive run throughout the whole pitch, Iniesta received the ball and connected with Cesc through his back heel, he passed it back to Navas and he opened up to the wing to Torres; he sent a short cross, Cesc picked up the rebound, and he caught Van der Vaart out of position, so he assisted Iniesta and he took advantage of the bound to score on Stekelenburg´s long post. Everyone’s goal. We were World Champions.