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Saturday, March 26, 2011
Luis Aragonés era, 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008
Spain qualified for the 2006 World Cup only after a play-off against Slovakia, as they had finished behind Serbia and Montenegro in Group 7, which also included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Lithuania, and San Marino. In Group H of the German hosted finals, Spain won all their matches, and beat Ukraine 4–0, Tunisia 3–1 and Saudi Arabia 1–0. However Spain fell 3–1 in the second round to France, with only the consolation of a share, with Brazil, of the 2006 FIFA Fair Play Award.
After being eliminated from the competition, Luis Aragonés came to the decision that the team was not physical or tough enough to be able to out-muscle opponents, they therefore opted to start concentrating on monopolising the ball and thus started to employ the tiki-taka - a style characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession. Raphael Honigstein describes it as "a significant upgrade of the Dutch "total football", a system that relied on players changing positions."
Spanish players celebrating their victory in Madrid.
Spain qualified for Euro 2008 at the top of Qualifying Group F with 28 points out of a possible 36, and were seeded 12th for the finals. They won all their games in Group D: 4–1 against Russia, and 2–1 against both Sweden and defending champions Greece.
Reigning World Cup holders Italy were the opponents in the quarter final match, and held Spain to a finished 0–0 draw resulting in a penalty shoot-out which Spain won 4–2. Spain met Russia again in the semi-final, again beating them, this time by 3-0.
In the final, played in Vienna's Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Spain defeated Germany 1–0, with a goal scored by Fernando Torres in the 33rd minute. This was Spain's first major title since the 1964 European Championship. Spain were the top scoring team, with 12 goals, and David Villa finished as the top scorer with four goals; Xavi was awarded the player of the tournament, and nine Spanish players were picked for the UEFA Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament