It is tempting to look back at Spain’s 2010 World Cup triumph and remember only the final – the glorious victory of brain over brawn, of elegance over Dutch brutality.
Andres Iniesta wrote his name in Spanish folklore with the extra-time winner, granting him eternal reverence, and applause at every ground he subsequently visited with Barcelona.
In addition to Iniesta, Vicente del Bosque was able to call on the rugged Carles Puyol in defence, the midfield artistry of Xavi and Xabi Alonso and the predatory instincts of David Villa and Fernando Torres.
A team so good you’d imagine they breezed through the group stage with the minimum of fuss.
Not so. Indeed, their early travails in South Africa bear a striking similarity to Spain’s struggles in advancing to the last 16 in Russia.
Granted, the 2010 team didn’t have their coach depart on the eve of the tournament, as Spain did here, but they did get off to an equally chaotic start with a 1-0 loss to Switzerland.
They got back on track with a 2-0 defeat of Honduras to set up a crunch final Group H clash with Chile. At the start of play, Spain and Switzerland had three points each with Chile on six.
Spain’s qualification was very much in the balance and had it not been for a combination of Chilean madness and Spanish dark arts, Iniesta and Co’s 2010 story would have had a very different ending.
The madness was Claudio Bravo’s. After Chile had dominated the early going with the frenetic energy typical of a Marcelo Bielsa side, Bravo came racing needlessly out of his goal to clear a throughball only to play it straight to Villa, who passed it into the empty net from 35 yards.
The dark arts belonged to Torres. In the build-up to Iniesta making it 2-0, the striker had his ankle clipped by Marco Estrada. Torres went down clutching his face and Estrada received a second yellow.
Chile pulled one back through Rodrigo Millar but Spain held on. It wasn’t pretty, or convincing, but they were through.
“We have overcome a very difficult time,” said Del Bosque, whose team than saw off Portugal, Paraguay and Germany before overcoming the Netherlands to lift the trophy.
Última sesión de trabajo en Krasnodar antes de volar a Moscú. Hoy entrenamos a puerta cerrada
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