Xavi

REVIEW: Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble by Graham Hunter

This is the story of the greatest achievement in the history of international football. After decades of failure, Spain won the European Championship in 2008 and then the World Cup in 2010. At Euro 2012 they became the first team to win three consecutive tournament titles. Graham Hunter was inside the dressing room as the players celebrated after the finals of the World Cup and Euro 2012. His access-all-areas pass at all three tournaments has resulted in remarkable eyewitness accounts and new interviews with star players and the men behind the scenes.

I loved this book. I’ve talked before about how I support the Spanish National Team and how the 2008-2012 era is just my favourite thing and it was a pure delight to watch Spain’s success happening in real time, so reading Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble was just as delightful.

It doesn’t just follow the events of the three tournaments and give a play by play of each of Spain’s matches. The tournaments are a major part of it, but it also looks at the history of the Spanish National Team, the legacy of the coaches that led the National Team to victory, and how the players in this historic era got to where they are. The youth system is a major factor and it was interesting to learn about how the Royal Spanish Football Federation, the governing body for football in Spain, builds up and invests in players when they are so young. It’s not just teaching these young players the skills they need, but teaching them a good work ethic and attitude, and how to work as a team. This book makes clear how so many of the golden generation had grown up playing with each other, either for their club or their country, and how club rivalries mean nothing when they have a Spain shirt on – no matter how hard José Mourinho may have tried.

There are interviews with players, organisers, pundits, and coaching staff in Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble. The coaches and their staff are given their due and it’s clear that the players have respect for them. It’s interesting and impressive to hear how some of the more experienced players, like captain Iker Casillas, Carlos Puyol and Xavi (who acted as a second captain to the national side really), were involved in some big decision making and all players were allowed to share their thoughts. Luis Aragonés who coached the national side to victory in 2008, instilled a sense of pride and confidence in the players and wasn’t afraid to make big changes to the team, and then Vicente del Bosque who took over and coached Spain from 2008 – 2016, ran with the foundations that Aragonés had set.

Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble is definitely a book for fans of the Spanish National Team, but I think any football fan would gain something from this book. To see how it takes decades to produce players and a team of this calibre is important. Spain’s success didn’t happen overnight, and they had a lot of doubters, but the way this group of players, so many of whom were involved in at least two of the major tournaments, achieved something so extraordinary is to be admired. The players in this era were friends first rather than teammates and how they learnt to read each other so well, offer advice and support in important moments (it’s thanks to Pepe Reina’s advice and experience that Casillas saved Paraguayan José Cardozo’s penalty at the World Cup) and just work together so seamlessly is just wonderful.

You might think Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble would be a dry read but it’s actually really entertaining and often funny. There’s a lot of witty anecdotes from players and staff and Hunter does a great job at explaining events and finding humour in tense situations.

I had a huge grin on my face pretty much the whole time I was reading Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble. It was so much fun reliving Spain’s golden years, there were some things I knew or remembered but so many others were new to me and it was wonderful to learn more about these players and these teams that were such a solid unit. I just love these Spanish players and their friendships and this book really captures how the Spanish National Team really had captured lightning in a bottle and managed to hold on to it for six years. 5/5.

S is for the Spanish National Team

I am British (half English and half Welsh if you want to really get into it) but I’ve been supporting Spain’s national football team since 2007. That was when England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 so as my dad lived in Spain, I decided I’d support them for the tournament. I didn’t know I’d fall in love with the players and their style of play and ten years on would still be a huge fan. Supporting a national football team, especially one that’s not your actual nationality, can be a bit tough and stressful but it’s still a lot of fun.

I suppose I was quite lucky really. I started following their games and learning more about the team as it was on the rise. Spain won Euro 2008 in a 1-0 final against Germany, Fernando Torres scored the winning goal. He and David Villa were amazing throughout the tournament and it was the start of my love for Villa, a man who’s gone on to be Spain’s top scorer, and Iker Casillas, Spain’s goalkeeper and Captain – some of his saves were magnificent.

Spain went onto win the 2010 World Cup. I watched the final in my dad’s local bar and it was a tense experience – especially with how dirty the match was – but the reaction when Iniesta scored in the final minutes of extra time was worth it.

There was a tonne of expectation placed onto Spain at the start of Euro 2012, if they went on to win it they’d make history by being the first team to win three tournaments back to back. And win it they did.

There’s so many great things about Spain’s team during their golden era. The midfield was made up of Xavi, Iniesta and Xabi Alonso and they had complete control of the field. The defence of Puyol, Pique and Sergio Ramos was brilliant, Puyol would keep them in check and if anything did get past them Iker Casillas was in goal. Their style of play with the tika taka, keeping the ball on the ground and lots of short, quick passes had a big effect on the game of football and how other teams played against them. Some think it’s a boring way to play but I enjoy it because it shows how well connected the team is.

Spain crashed and burned at the 2014 World Cup but they did better at the Euros last year. Players are retiring and new ones are joining the squad, there’s a new coach and a new captain, but I will always continue supporting Spain.