|Major Honours||FIFA World Cup (1), UEFA European Championship (3), Olympic Gold Medal (1)|
Spain's national team has been world soccer's most successful in the 21st Century so far, but their history started long before that.
Governed by the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol (RFEF), Spain were one of the founding members of FIFA in 1904 and have been fairly consistent in qualifying for major international tournaments.
La Furia Roja, as they are affectionately known, are the only international team in history to win three consecutive major titles (Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012), as well as the only team to win back-to-back European Championships.
Along with Germany, they are the joint-most successful team in the history of the European Championships, with each side having won the tournament three times.
Early history and the 1950 World Cup
Despite being a FIFA member since 1904, Spain's football federation was only founded in 1909. They put a national team together to compete in the 1920 Summer Olympics and ultimately picked up the silver medal.
The Spanish Civil War put paid to the country's football ambitions for some time, but they earned a fourth-place finish at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, which remained their best ever for the next 60 years.
1964 European Championships
Spain hosted the 1964 European Championships and ultimately won it, beating the Soviet Union 2-1 in the final at the Santiago Bernabeu after a 2-1 extra-time win over Hungary in the semi-finals - Jesus María Pereda scored for Spain in both of those fixtures.
President Francisco Franco had previously banned Spain from travelling to Moscow in 1960 to play their opponents, but the leader granted his permission for the final to be played in Spain, and witnessed the victory from the stands himself.
Pereda's two goals at the tournament saw him crowned as joint-top scorer alongside Hungary's Ferenc Bene and Dezso Novak respectively.
The 1964 success remained Spain's only major championship triumph until the 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland under Vincente del Bosque.
Regular tournament qualification but little success
After their group-stage elimination from the 1966 World Cup, Spain did not qualify again for a major tournament until the 1978 World Cup.
They exited at the group stage again and at Euro 1980, Spain made the second round of the 1982 World Cup on home soil. Then, at Euro 1984, they enjoyed their most successful tournament in 20 years as they went all the way to the final, losing to a Michel Platini-inspired France.
Spain have not failed to qualify for a World Cup since this era, although they missed out on Euro 1992, but they failed to come as close to another major tournament triumph as they did in Euro 1984 until 2008.
Raul burst onto the international scene in 1996 and became one of Spain's greatest ever players with 44 goals in 102 caps, but even he could not end their drought as Spain did not make it past the quarter-finals of a major tournament until Euro 2008.
Spain's golden years
A golden generation of Spanish footballers began to emerge in the late 1990s and early to mid-2000s, with standout players being the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Fernando Torres and Iker Casillas.
Spain took a squad brimming with talent to the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but they were eliminated 3-1 by France in the round of 16.
In 2008, Luis Aragones finally led his team to glory as Spain won the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland.
Their campaign began with group stage wins over Russia, Sweden and Greece. World champions Italy were eliminated on penalties in the quarter-finals and then Russia in the semi-finals before a 1-0 win over Germany in the final, with Torres scoring the winning goal. Villa was the tournament's top goalscorer with four strikes to his name.
They became only the second team in history to win all their group stage games and the tournament itself, matching a record set by France in 1984.
Spain followed that up by finishing third at the Confederations Cup in South Africa in 2009.
With Vicente del Bosque at the helm, Spain's 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign got off to a difficult start as they lost to Switzerland, but they recovered with wins over Honduras and Chile to make the next round.
Spain saw off Portugal in the last 16 and Paraguay in the quarter-finals before going on to beat Germany 1-0 in the semi-finals and the Netherlands 1-0 after extra time in the final at Soccer City. Andres Iniesta capitalised on an assist from Cesc Fabregas to score the goal which clinched Spain's first ever World Cup triumph.
At Euro 2012, Spain were triumphant once again as they beat Italy 4-0 in the final. Torres scored his third goal of the tournament in that victory to clinch the Golden Boot, won by virtue of being the joint-top goalscorer and having played fewer minutes than Germany's Mario Gomez.
Tougher recent years
In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, all eyes were on the winners of the past three major international tournaments and their capabilities of winning a fourth, but it wasn't meant to be as they fell to a shock early exit from the competition.
Spain were eliminated from Group B of the 2014 FIFA World Cup after suffering a heavy 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands and also losing to Chile. At Euro 2016, they were eliminated in the round of 16 by Italy.
Del Bosque described the calamitous campaign as a 'learning experience', citing that the country were beaten by better teams and that they would bounce back to win a third successive European Championships.
Despite a shock 2-1 loss to Croatia in their final group game of Euro 2016, wins over Turkey and the Czech Republic were enough to see Spain advance to the next round of the tournament.
Unfortunately it just wasn't meant to be as they were knocked out 2-0 by Italy in the next round, a defeat that prompted Del Bosque's resignation, as many feared a golden generation of Spanish football was over.
Spain's 2018 World Cup qualification campaign went smoothly, but the team was thrown into turmoil right before the tournament when manager Julen Lopetegui was sacked after taking the Real Madrid job. He was replaced for the tournament by Fernando Hierro, who led Spain to the round of 16, where they suffered a shock defeat to hosts Russia.
The Spain national team is currently under the guidance of former Barcelona treble-winning boss Luis Enrique, who is attempting to oversee a journey back to the top of world soccer.
It could be argued that most of Spain's legends have played for the team in recent years and some are still active.
Sergio Ramos is Spain's record appearance maker and the Real Madrid defender remains active in the national team setup.
David Villa overtook Raul as Spain's all-time record goalscorer by netting twice against the Czech Republic in a Euro 2012 qualifier. He is also their highest goalscorer at the World Cup finals and in a single European Championship with four.
Alongside Villa as a record-breaking striker is Fernando Torres. El Nino has the most goals for his country in European Championships and Confederation Cups as well as the joint most hat-tricks.
Real Madrid legend, Iker Casillas has the most clean sheets for Spain with 74, breaking the record in a game against China.
Aside from the modern legends of the game, there are a host of famous faces from Spanish football's past that are written in the history books of the national side.
Emilio Butragueno shares the record for most goals at a single World Cup tournament with David Villa, the former Real striker scored five goals at the 1986 tournament in Mexico.
Former coach, Fernando Hierro also holds the record for the most penalty goals scored for his country with 10.
Spain's biggest rivals
Spain have fierce rivalries with Portugal and Italy. The Mediterranean derby against Italy has generally been evenly-matched in terms of head-to-head fixtures over the years. Spain eliminated Italy from Euro 2008 and beat them in Euro 2012, but were eliminated by them at Euro 2016.
Twelve finals have been contested between Spanish and Italian representatives over the years with the Spaniards reigning supreme, winning eight of them.
The two U-21 sides of the countries have also had a strong rivalry in recent years, surrounding the dominance of who has the strongest young side in world soccer today.
The rivalry with Portugal, known as "The Iberian War", has generally been one-sided in favour of Spain. Portugal have never won the World Cup, but were European champions in 2016.
Spanning nearly 100 years, the feud between the two developed in December 1921, when Spain beat Portugal 3-1 in what was the first international friendly game between the two.
Portugal waited 26 years for their first win against Spain, defeating them 4-1 in 1947 to intensify the rivalry.
Spanish supporters are known for going to the streets to celebrate the national team's victories, creating what is known in some quarters as the Red Tide.
- Jun 04, 2021
- Mar 29, 2021