Spain’s most notable teams?

THE SPAIN team that won three consecutive major titles between 2008 and 2012 will go down in history as the most successful national team in those years. Spain also had an important role in changing football in that period, the so-called tiki-taka, a game built around short-passing and constant movement. This system turned Spain into perpetual under-achievers into trend-setters. In Qatar 2022, Spain will be one of the more fancied sides to win the World Cup.

1920 – The Olympics

Spain created their national team for the Olympics and they won the silver medal after a tournament that was disrupted by Czechoslovakia, who were losing the final to Belgium, walked off the pitch. A hastily arranged series of play-offs were initiated to determine the silver and bronze medals. Spain beat Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands to secure silver.

Ricardo Zamora, Luis Otero, Mariono Arrate, Jose Samitier, Belauste, Ramon Eguiazabal, Pagaza, Felix Sesumaga, Patricio Arabolaza, Pichichi, Domingo Gomez Acedo, Pedro Vallana, Agustin Sancho, Joaquin Vazquez.

Coach: Francisco Bru, Madrid-born football man who was a player, referee and highly respected coach. He was manager of Peru in the 1930 World Cup.

Ricardo Zamora, the legendary Spain keeper whose name has lived on in the form of the Zamora trophy, awarded to the top goalkeeper in La Liga each season. Zamora was from Barcelona, but played for both Barca and Real Madrid. He won 46 caps for Spain, his career in Spain ending during the civil war, during which he was imprisoned. Rafael Moreno Aranzadi, “Pichichi” – Athletic Bilbao striker who died in 1922 at the age of 29 due to Typhus. To honour his name and memory, the Pichichi award was inaugurated and is given each year to the top scorer in La Liga.

1950 World Cup

Antonio Ramallets, Gabriel Alonso, Gonzalvo II, Jose Parra, Gonzalvo III, Antonio Puchades, Estanislao Basora, Agustin Gainza, Silvestre Igoa, Zarra, Jose Panizo, Luis Malownhy, Ignacio Eizaguirre, Rosendo Hernandez, Jose Juncosa.

Coach: Guillermo Eizaguirre, a goalkeeper with Sevilla as a player, he took over the national team in 1948 and had two spells in charge.

Achievement: Spain won all three of their group games in the 1950 World Cup, including a 1-0 victory against England. They qualified for the final group that included Sweden, Uruguay and Brazil. They drew 2-2 with Uruguay, but were beaten 6-1 by favourites and hosts, Brazil.

Zarra – Bilbao striker, born 1921, who won the Pichichi award six times during a prolific career. He scored more than 300 goals for Athletic Bilbao and won 20 caps, averaging a goal a game. Estanislau Basora – one of Barcelona’s greatest wingers, he scored over 100 goals for the club and won 22 caps. He also represented Catalonia five times. Agustín Gaínza –  captain of Spain and one of the players of the 1950 World Cup. Played around 400 games for Athletic Bilbao and was capped 33 times.

1964 European champions

José Angel Iribar, Feliciano Rivilla, Isacio Calleja, Ignacío Zoco, Ferran Olivella, Josep Maria Fustré, Carlos Lapetra, Luis Suárez, Marcelino Martinez, Jesús Maria Pereda, Amancio Amaro.

Coach: José Villalonga

Achievement: European Championship winners 1964, beating USSR in the final and before that, Romania, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.

Jesús Maria Pereda, Barcelona midfielder who also played briefly for Real Madrid. Catalan-born players who won 15 caps for Spain. Had a very good eye for goal; Luis Suárez, Galician-born inside forward or attacking midfielder, an elegant player possessing an explosive shot. Starred for Barcelona and also played for Inter Milan and Sampdoria; Amancio, outside right who was known as El Brujo (the magician). Played 14 years with Real Madrid and won 42 caps for Spain.

After their performance in 1950, Spain failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1954 and 1958. In both 1962 and 1966, they were eliminated in the group stage and then they missed out again in 1970 and 1974. Since then, they have qualified for every World Cup. In the 1980s, they threatened to challenge in both 1982 and 1986, but in the latter, after beating Denmark 5-1 in the round of 16, they surprisingly went out to Belgium. In between those two World Cups, they reached the final of the European Championship, losing to France.

1984 – Euro finalists

Luis Arconada, Santiago Urquiaga, Ricardo Gallego, Salva, José Antonio Camacho, Victor Muñoz, Juan Señor, Julio Alberto, Francisco, Santillana, Francisco José Carrasco, Manuel Sarabia, Roberto, Antonio Maceda.

Coach: Miguel Muñoz – won the European Cup with Real Madrid, later managing the club.

Luis Arconada – Captain and goalkeeper of the team who won 68 caps for Spain. A brave and athletic keeper for his club, Real Sociedad and country. Extremely acrobatic style. Santillana – An outstanding forward who played 645 times for Real Madrid, scoring 290 goals. Excellent in the air, he was one of the best strikers of his generation, winning 56 caps for Spain. Ricardo Gallego, versatile performer who could play in midfield or as a sweeper. One of Real Madrid’s key players in the 1980s, winning four La Liga titles.

2008 – 2012: The treble winners

At the start of this glorious period, Spain was a country in some turmoil. They were badly affected by the global financial crisis, but at the same time, their national team was in the ascendancy and their clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid, dominated Europe, winning the Champions League in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2014. Spain won the European Championship in 2008 and 2012, and the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Carlos Marchena, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila, Marcos Senna, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fàbregas, David Silva, Fernande Torres, Xabi Alonso, Santi Cazorla, Dani Güiza, David Villa, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, Jesús Navas, Juan Mata, Jordi Alba, Álvaro Negredo, Álvaro Arbeloa.

Coaches: Luis Aragonés, enjoyed success as coach of Atlético Madrid and Barcelona before leading Spain to the 2008 European Championship. Vicente del Bosque, won the World Cup in 2010 and European Championship in 2012. Achieved a win rate of 76% in eight years as coach. As a player, appeared over 400 times for Real Madrid.

Xavi – A product of Barcelona’s La Masia youth set-up, Xavi played 767 games for the club and was a key part of the great Barca team of the 2010s. A deep-lying playmaker who was adept at finding space on the field to produce decisive passes. Small and agile, he won 82 caps for Spain. Sergio Ramos – Aggressive and competitive defender who won 180 caps for Spain and played 671 games for Real Madrid, scoring over 100 goals. Won all three trophies with Spain as well as four UEFA Champions Leagues. Andrés Iniesta –  Scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands. A neat and skilful midfielder with superb balance and ball control, Iniesta was the ultimate box-to-box midfielder. Won 131 caps for Spain and appeared nearly 700 times for Barcelona. David Silva – A versatile and agile midfielder who can act as a false number 9 and a playmaker. Silva won 125 caps for Spain and starred with Valencia, Manchester City and latterly, Real Sociedad. A good dribbler and capable of creating and scoring goals.

The last Magyars – Hungary’s 1960s revival

WHEN Hungary looked as though they were about to rule the football world, the country had a revolution and the team dubbed the best on the planet all but broke up.

In September 1956, Hungary won 1-0 in Moscow in a friendly, an impressive result in front of 102,000 people against a Soviet Union team that included the great Lev Yashin. The Soviets were not happy and in the days that followed, tension between Hungarians and their overlords began to rise. Indeed, the victory in the Lenin Stadium was, to some extent, seen as a symbol of defiance.

When the unrest reached boiling point, Hungary’s golden team had the heart ripped out of it. Goalkeeper Gyula Grosics fled the country with his family, only to return, but others, such as Ferenc Puskás, Zòltan Czibor and Sàndor Kocsis, all departed, Puskás eventually joining Real Madrid, after an enforced absence, and Czibor and Kocsis signing for Barcelona.

Meanwhile, what was left of Hungarian football had to try and qualify for the next World Cup in Sweden. In 1954, of course, they were considered to be the best team, tragically succumbing to West Germany in Berne.

By the time Hungary embarked on their qualification programme in June 1957, their team looked somewhat different to their previous game in Vienna against Austria, just a couple of weeks before the uprising. They lost 2-1 to Norway, but it was the only setback as they won through to Sweden. But despite being in a group that included hosts Sweden, Wales and Mexico, Hungary failed to get past the group stage in Scandinavia.

Something was stirring, though that would take Hungary beyond being just reasonable as an international force. They may not have been the artists of old, but Hungary, with a socialist model that saw the benefits of muscular and virile sportsmen representing the nation, became one of the handful of eastern bloc countries presenting a formidable face to the west. Budapest bid to host the 1960 Olympics, and in the game in Italy, they were seventh in the medals table with 21. Poland and Czechoslavakia were also among the leading medal winners and in forthcoming games’ the communist nations would sweep-up medals with alarming regularity across most disciplines.

Hungary won the bronze in the 1960 Olympic football tournament, losing 2-0 to Denmark in the semi-finals. Nevertheless, there were signs of a new batch of Magyars emerging who could look the golden team in the eye. Flórián Albert of Ferencvaros was the shining light who was seen as a worthy successor to Puskás and his team-mates. Albert, the son of a blacksmith, was just 18, but within two years, he was listed among the candidates for the Ballon D’or, along with three other Hungarians – Újpesti Dózsa Jànos Göröcs and Ernö Solymosi and Lajos Tichy of Honved. Tichy was a prolific scorer who had the dubious nickname of “the nation’s bomber”, long before Gerd Müller was given the same title for Germany.

Hungary reached the 1962 World Cup in Chile and in the group stage, beat old rivals England 2-1, Tichy and Albert scoring the goals. They won the group but were knocked out in the last eight by an impressive Czech team. Two years later, Hungary qualified for the final stages of the European Nations Cup, but were beaten by Spain. By now, they had in their ranks Ferenc Bene, a 19-year-old winger from Újpesti Dózsa. Bene was soon recognised as a hot talent, but there was no way anyone outside Hungary was going to gain access to him.

Hungarian teams were faring well in European competition, which underlined the strength in depth in the domestic game at the time. Between 1962 and 1968, a Hungarian team reached, at least, the quarter-finals of the three European competitions – European Cup, European Cup-Winners’ Cup (ECWC) and Inter Cities Fairs’ Cup. MTK contested the final of the ECWC in 1964, Ferencvaros won the Fairs’ Cup a year later and in 1968, Fradi were beaten by Leeds in the final. Hungarian teams were considered tough, especially on their own ground.

In 1964, Hungary won the gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics, beating Czechoslavakia 2-1 in the final. Bene was the competition’s top scorer with 12 goals. It was clear there was still good momentum in Hungarian football.

Their form in European competitions and their Olympic squad – there was a blurring of the lines between amateur and professional status given that eastern bloc footballers were considered soldiers first, sportsman second and therefore debatable ‘amateurs’ – meant that they went into the 1966 World Cup in England as dark horses for the title. Bene and Albert were now acknowledged among Europe’s most promising players and certainly among the finest behind the “iron curtain”. Hungary were reputed to be attack-minded, using 4-4-2 to good effect, but they went to the north of England fearful that the flamboyant Brazilians and Portuguese would expose deficiencies in the system. They didn’t have to worry much about Brazil, whom they beat in style 3-1 at Goodison Park with the scouse crowd singing the praises of Albert. Hungary finished second in the group, earning them a quarter-final against the Soviet Union at Sunderland’s Roker Park.

Not for the first time, Hungary found the physical Soviets too much, although it is worth noting that after 1956, they always struggled to get a result. Conspiracy theories aside, Hungary were undone by a goalkeeping error early on, Joszef Gelei dropping a shot and gifting Igor Chislenko with a tap-in. Valery Porkuyan added a second after 46 minutes, bundling the ball over the line at the far post. Bene pulled one back on 57 minutes to announce an all-out attempt to save the game, but the Hungarians ran out of steam.

Hungary had made their mark, however, and their performances in the early 1950s had left them with many friends in England. Nobody was under any illusions, though, the 1960s Hungarians were not a patch on their predecessors.

But in 1967, Flórián Albert was named European Footballer of the Year, finishing way ahead of runner-up Bobby Charlton of Manchester United. Albert was Hungary’s golden boy, an elegant performer with two good feet and an uncanny ability to caress the ball with his passing and vision. Although his emergence softened the pain of losing the talismanic Puskás, his style was more in keeping with that of Sandor Hidegkuti.

Hungary’s fortunes were beginning to decline. In the 1968 European Championship, they were beaten by the Soviet Union once more in the quarter-final play-offs, and in 1970, they were missing from the Mexico World Cup, a costly 3-2 defeat in Denmark costing dear although it was a play-off with Czechoslavakia that eliminated them. In the Olympics, they won gold again in 1968

After 1972, it was virtually all over, with Hungary losing 1-0 in the semi-final to [who else but] the USSR in Brussels and the Olympic team earning a silver. The question is, would Hungary have achieved more if they had not bumped into the Soviets in big competitions on such a regular basis?

Since then, it has been a grim story, not just on the international stage, but also on the domestic scene. It’s often easy to overlook the fact that Hungary is a small country, its population has not grown much since the 1950s, but what has changed is the appetite for its own football. In 1961, the average crowd for top level games was 13,000 and rose to 16,000 in 1964. Ferencvaros, the most popular (and most hated!) club was averaging 43,000 in 1963-64. Today, “Fradi” draw 9,000 their gleaming green and white stadium.

Players like Bene and Albert are a reminder, however, that Hungarian football was not just about Puskás, that the system was capable of producing outstanding talent even after political and structural upheaval. Could it happen again? Let’s hope so, but the football world may not allow it. We live in interesting, commercial and globalised times.