Rewriting football's history books has become a Spanish speciality and they were at it once again at UEFA EURO 2012; we examine their historic successful title defence in the second episode of UEFA.com's three-part tournament review.
No side had won three major championships in a row before Spain's stunning 4-0 defeat of Italy in the Kyiv final on 1 July. That ensured La Roja achieved that treble, becoming the first team to defend successfully the European title, with a first FIFA World Cup added in 2010 for good measure.
"It was more than just winning, you have to look back even more, the last four extraordinary years where Spanish football has been going well, and it serves us to take it with more responsibility in the future," reflects coach Vicente del Bosque.
"We took over a great team in 2008. The team had just won the EURO, and they were just a team of players working well together. They knew what they could expect in the near future, and we knew that we were working with a good generation. So what we did was to improve the qualities, which we managed to do most of the time, and we tried to keep in mind that what we had achieved was achieved together."
That sense of continuity has been key. Six of the starting XI in the final had also played in the decisive UEFA EURO 2008 defeat of Germany. However, the tactics were different, with no recognised striker for much of the tournament. Elsewhere, a new star was born at left-back as Jordi Alba developed a near perfect understanding with Andrés Iniesta.
Alba said: "We played very well in all the matches we played together. But that was the case for the whole team. I think the whole team played pretty well together. To play along with Iniesta, who is one of the best players around, he is the player that makes the difference."
Iniesta himself was named as the Best Player of the Tournament, and later received the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award for the 2011/12 season. "It was more difficult [than 2008] because it was a few years later, and more difficult because all the opponents wanted to beat the defending EURO champions, and world champions," Iniesta reflected.
Del Bosque added: "We have many players who play a fundamental role, they are all individually great players, with great talent. Then you have the 'normal' lads, who need to keep that normality, that is what we want, and that will serve us in the future.
"They should never let that go, and also not lose that hunger for more success. In that sense I think we are well equipped to take on new challenges."
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