It was fitting that Spain were dressed in black against Australia for their Group B final game, because it was figuratively the funeral of one of—if not—the greatest dynasty in soccer/fútbol history. La Furia Roja defeated the Socceroos 3-0 in Arena da Baixada in Curitiba. Spain leaves the World Cup with a win, but also leave with much disappointment as their reign of the football world came crashing to an end. The final game of Spain’s 2008-14 dynasty fittingly ended with two of its most beloved national team players score goals in what was more than likely their final national team game: David Villa and Fernando Torres.
[Related: Dutch beat Chile to top group B ]
After the disappointment in Euro 2004, Spain brought in Luis Aragonés to lead the national team. Aragonés was always a tough manager, and he knew tough decisions were needed to rebuild the squad. Aragonés called up Valencia’s David Villa to the national team in 2005. Torres, who was called up in 2003, was starting to grow as a footballer at Atlético Madrid. Aragonés selected Villa and Torres for Spain’s 2006 World Cup squad. Torres and Villa played well in the tournament, each scoring three goals. Aragonés made the controversial decision to not call up Raúl, the legendary forward from Real Madrid, to the national team ever again. Aragonés knew in order to build something special for Spain, he had to build the Furia Roja's firepower around Villa and Torres for Euro 2008.
Aragonés knew exactly what he was doing.
Villa and Torres caused problems for opponents and were the one-two punch for Spain. “El Guaje” won the Golden Boot for the tournament with four goals. “El Niño” only scored two goals, but one of those was his greatest goal for Spain in his career as his strike in the 33rd minute was the lone goal in Spain’s 1-0 Euro 2008 final victory over Germany. With Torres and Villa, Spain won every game in the tournament, becoming only the second team in European championship history to do so.
David Villa and Fernando Torres represented the new era of Spain: young, wild, risk-takers, a bit arrogant, and full of hunger to win. Villa and Torres were the “Furia” in “Furia Roja”. While the midfield controlled the game, it was Torres and Villa that were the executors for Spain. Their furious and passionate celebrations were contagious and a joy to see. During those early years of Spanish dominance, Villa and Torres were arguably the deadliest national team combination in the game.
After Aragonés’ retirement, Vicente Del Bosque took over the squad. As the “tiki-taka” influence on the national team grew, Villa and Torres had to adapt. Villa stayed a part of the starting XI. Fernando Torres’ star began to fade in 2009 as injuries began to plague him. David Villa was the equivalent of Spain's firepower during the 2010 World Cup. He scored five goals in the tournament, including the goals to defeat Portugal in the round of 16 and Paraguay in the quarterfinals. Having just come back from knee surgery, Fernando Torres had a sub-par World Cup; hardly having much influence in the games he played in. Torres’ greatest contribution to Spain’s run was in the final against the Netherlands as his attempted cross to Andres Iniesta which eventually landed in front Cesc Fabregas’ feet who then passed it to Iniesta for the extra-time winning goal. Torres replaced Villa in extra time.
Villa and Torres’ run began to really decline in 2012. Villa did not participate in Euro 2012, as he was not able to recover in time after his horrible broken tibia injury in the FIFA Club World Club while playing for FC Barcelona. Torres was part of the Euro 2012 squad, but by then, he wasn’t the Torres of the old days anymore. Fernando scored 3 goals in Euro 2012 including one in the 4-0 win over Italy in the final.
[Related: Group A recap: Brazil and Mexico advance, Croatia and Cameroon go home ]
The 2014 World Cup was a terrible disappointment for Spain, as it marked the end of an era. Many players on the team will perhaps never represent their nation again in a competitive tournament. This includes David Villa, who said prior to the tournament’s start that the World Cup would be his last time wearing a Spain kit. Fernando Torres hasn’t stated he’d retire from the national team, but with many young forwards coming up as well as Fernando’s game frankly not good enough for the national team, it’s very unlikely Torres will be called up for national duty again.
Against Australia, Villa scored a beautiful back-heel goal in the 36th minute. The goal was classic Guaje. Torres got on the board in the 69th minute as an Iniesta through-ball found Fernando and slotted it in the back of the net in classic Niño Torres fashion.
On September 2, 2006, in the first game of the Group F qualifiers for Euro 2008, El Guaje and El Niño each scored in a win, which marked the beginning of Spain’s journey to greatness. Against Australia, in the last game of the World Cup for La Furia Roja, Spain’s run of greatness ended with Villa and Torres each scoring a goal in a Spanish win.
The beautiful game has a way of bringing things into full circle.
Villa left the 3-0 win over Australia in tears and cried as he took a seat on the bench, as he knew he would never represent his nation again. A few hours after the game, Villa thanked his fans on Instagram: “Thank you for all the love you have shown me! I’m always so proud to have played and scored for @sefutbol in a World Cup. It’s sad we couldn’t get further.” Torres has not come out and said he won't play for Spain again, but as mentioned, it's very unlikely he is called up again.
Spain's 2008-14 golden era will be remembered mainly for tiki-taka, but Torres and Villa's contributions were something special in their own right. Torres was the main offensive force in the early years of Spain's run, while Villa did his greatest damage in the later years.
Spain will rebuild and has a bright future, with many young talents on the rise. But before we welcome in the new era of players to the Spanish national team spotlight, let’s stand up and say one last “Gracias” to two players that were an essential part of the greatest dynasty in soccer/fútbol history: David “El Guaje” Villa and Fernando “El Niño” Torres.
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