Spain
Shirt badge/Association crest
Nickname(s)La Roja ("The Red One")
La Furia Roja ("The Red Fury")[1]
AssociationReal Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF)
ConfederationUEFA (Europe)
Head coachLuis Enrique
CaptainSergio Busquets
Most capsSergio Ramos (180)[2]
Top scorerDavid Villa (59)
Home stadiumVarious
FIFA codeESP
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 6 Steady (27 May 2021)[3]
Highest1 (July 2008 – June 2009, October 2009 – March 2010, July 2010 – July 2011, October 2011 – July 2014)
Lowest25 (March 1998)
First international
 Spain 1–0 Denmark 
(Brussels, Belgium; 28 August 1920)
Biggest win
 Spain 13–0 Bulgaria 
(Madrid, Spain; 22 August 1933)
Biggest defeat
 Spain 1–7 Italy 
(Amsterdam, Netherlands; 4 June 1928)
 England 7–1 Spain 
(London, England; 9 December 1931)
World Cup
Appearances15 (first in 1934)
Best resultChampions (2010)
European Championship
Appearances11 (first in 1964)
Best resultChampions (1964, 2008, 2012)
Nations League Finals
Appearances1 (first in 2021)
FIFA Confederations Cup
Appearances2 (first in 2009)
Best resultRunners-up (2013)

The Spain national football team (Spanish: Selección Española de Fútbol) represents Spain in international men's football competitions since 1920. It is governed by the Royal Spanish Football Federation, the governing body for football in Spain. Spain are one of the eight national teams to have been crowned world champions, having participated in a total of 15 of 21 FIFA World Cups and qualifying consistently since 1978. Spain also won three continental titles, having appeared at 11 of 15 UEFA European Championships.

Spain is the only national team with three consecutive major titles, becoming the first European team to win a FIFA World Cup outside of Europe in 2010 as well as the only one to win back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012.[6] From 2008 to 2013, Spain won the FIFA Team of the Year, the second-most of any nation, behind only Brazil.[7] Also between February 2007 and June 2009, Spain went undefeated for a record-equalling 35 consecutive matches, shared with Brazil.[8] Their achievements have led many experts and commentators to consider the 2008–2012 Spanish squad one of the best ever international sides in world football.[9][10][11][12][13]

History

Spain national football team in the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp

Spain has been a member of FIFA since FIFA's foundation in 1904, even though the Spanish Football Federation was first established in 1909. The first Spain national football team was constituted in 1920, with the main objective of finding a team that would represent Spain at the Summer Olympics held in Belgium in that same year. Spain made their debut at the tournament on 28 August 1920 against Denmark, silver medallists at the last two Olympic tournaments. The Spanish managed to win that match by a scoreline of 1–0, eventually finishing with the silver medal.[14] Spain qualified for their first FIFA World Cup in 1934, defeating Brazil in their first game and losing in a replay to the hosts and eventual champions Italy in the quarter-finals.[15] The Spanish Civil War and World War II prevented Spain from playing any competitive matches between the 1934 World Cup and the 1950 edition's qualifiers. At the 1950 finals in Brazil, they topped their group to progress to the final round, then finished in fourth place.[16] Until 2010, this had been Spain's highest finish in a FIFA World Cup finals, which had given them the name of the "underachievers".[17]

Spain won its first major international title when hosting the 1964 European Championship held in Spain, defeating the Soviet Union 2–1 in the final at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.[18] The victory would stand as Spain's lone major title for 44 years. Spain was selected as host of the 1982 FIFA World Cup, reaching the second round and four years later they reached the quarter-finals before a penalty shootout defeat to Belgium.[19] Spain reached the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup. The match became controversial when Italian defender Mauro Tassotti struck Luis Enrique with his elbow inside Spain's penalty area, causing Luis Enrique to bleed profusely from his nose and mouth, but the foul was not noticed nor sanctioned by referee Sándor Puhl. Had the official acknowledged the foul, Spain would have merited a penalty kick.[20] In the 2002 World Cup, Spain won its three group play matches, then defeated the Republic of Ireland on penalties in the second round. They faced co-hosts South Korea in the quarter-finals, losing in a shootout after having two goals controversially called back for alleged infractions during regular and extra time.[21]

World Cup champions parade, celebrate as they pass in front of the Air Force Headquarters in Madrid.

At UEFA Euro 2008, Spain won all their games in Group D. Italy were the opponents in the quarter-final match, which Spain won 4–2 on penalties. They then met Russia again in the semi-final, beating them 3–0.[22] In the final, Spain defeated Germany 1–0, with Fernando Torres scoring the only goal of the game.[23] This was Spain's first major title since the 1964 European Championship. Xavi was awarded the player of the tournament.[24] In the 2010 World Cup, Spain advanced to the final for the first time ever by defeating Germany 1–0. In the decisive match against the Netherlands, Andrés Iniesta scored the match's only goal, coming in extra time. Spain became the third team to win a World Cup outside their own continent, and the first European team to do so. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas won the golden glove for only conceding two goals during the tournament, while David Villa won the bronze ball and silver boot, tied for top scorer of the tournament. Spain qualified top of Group I in qualification for UEFA Euro 2012 with a perfect 100% record.[9] They became the first team to retain the European Championship, winning the final 4–0 against Italy, while Fernando Torres won the Golden Boot for top scorer of the tournament.[25]

Two years later, however, they were eliminated from the group stage of the 2014 World Cup.[26] At Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, the side reached the last 16.[27][28] In the UEFA Euro 2020 held in 2021, Spain made some breakthrough as the team reached the last four before losing to eventual champions Italy, though with a largely unimpressive performance as Spain had won only one game in regulation time throughout the tournament.[29]


Team image

Nicknames

Spanish team is commonly known by fans as "La Furia Roja", meaning the Red Fury in Spanish.[1] recalling the "Sack of Antwerp" - an episode in the military history of Spain-.[30] However, there are another unofficial nicknames to refer to the national team of Spain.

The other most common nickname, known by fans, is "Los Toros" (Fighting Bulls), since Spanish Fighting Bull is one of Spain's famous national treasures and often used to define Spanish culture, and also often depicted by Spanish supporters alike.[31] Spanish football team is sometimes also referred as the Bulls due to this cultural heritage.[32]

Spanish team also received other nicknames, mostly "Toreros" or "Matador", both meanings are Bullfighters in Spanish, to describe its passionate and romantic style of football playing.[33]

Style of play

Spain, UEFA Euro 2008 winners
Spanish players celebrate winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup
Spain, UEFA Euro 2012 winners

During Spain's most successful period between 2008 and 2012, the team played a style of football dubbed 'tiki-taka', a systems approach to football founded upon the ideal of team unity and a comprehensive understanding in the geometry of space on a football field.[34]

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",[35] a "short passing style in which the ball is worked carefully through various channels",[36] and a "nonsensical phrase that has come to mean short passing, patience and possession above all else".[37] The style involves roaming movement and positional interchange amongst midfielders, moving the ball in intricate patterns,[38] and sharp, one or two-touch passing.[39] 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.[40] Commentators have contrasted tiki-taka with "Route One physicality"[35] 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.[36] Tiki-taka is associated with flair, creativity, and touch,[41] but can also be taken to a "slow, directionless extreme" that sacrifices effectiveness for aesthetics.[37]

Tiki-taka was successfully employed by the Spanish national team to win UEFA Euro 2008, 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012. The team of this era is regarded as being among the greatest international teams in history.[11][9][10]

They have the Barcelona "carousel" of Xavi and Andrés Iniesta augmented by Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso in midfield.

— Phil McNulty of the BBC on the midfield players at the heart of Spain's tiki-taka passing style of play.[9]

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.[37] 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.[42]

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".[40]

We have the same idea as each other. Keep the ball, create movement around and off the ball, get in the spaces to cause danger.

— Xabi Alonso (Spanish midfielder).[39]

Kits and crest

Spain's kit is traditionally a red jersey with yellow trim, dark blue shorts and black socks, whilst their current away kit is all predominantly white. The colour of the socks altered throughout the 1990s from black to the same blue colour as the shorts, matching either the blue of the shorts or the red of the shirt until the mid-2010s when they returned to their traditional black. Spain's kits have been produced by manufacturers including Adidas (from 1981 until 1983), Le Coq Sportif (from 1983 until 1991) and Adidas once again (since 1991). Rather than displaying the logo of the Spanish football federation, Spain's jersey traditionally features the coat of arms of Spain over the left breast. After winning the 2010 World Cup, the World Cup winners badge was added to the right breast of the jersey and a golden star at the top of the Spanish coat of arms.

Kit suppliers

Kit supplier Period Notes
None 1920–1935
Spain Deportes Cóndor 1935–1966
England Umbro 1966
Spain Deportes Cóndor 1967–1981
Germany Adidas 1981–1983
France Le Coq Sportif 1983–1991
Germany Adidas 1991–present Current until 2030

Spain does not have a designated national stadium, and as such, major qualifying matches are usually played at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid. The capital city Madrid (Bernabéu and Metropolitano), Seville (Pizjuán and Villamarín), Valencia (Mestalla and Orriols) and Barcelona (Camp Nou and Montjuïc), are the four Spanish cities that have hosted more than 15 national team matches, while also being home to the largest stadiums in the country.[45]

Other friendly matches, as well as qualifying fixtures against smaller opponents, are played in provincial stadia. The 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign included matches at the Reino de León in León,[46] Los Cármenes in Granada,[47] El Molinón in Gijón,[48] and the Rico Pérez in Alicante.[49]

Media coverage

Spain's UEFA European Qualifiers and UEFA Nations League matches, and all friendly games from 2018 until 2022, will be televised nationwide by La 1, flagship television channel of the public broadcaster TVE.[50]

Rivalries

Spain has two main rivalries with other top footballing nations.