Long known as the perennial underachievers of world soccer, Spain look to have finally cracked their big tournament nerves after their stunning victory at Euro 2008. Universally acclaimed as a victory for good soccer, Spain passed their way to glory in Austria and Switzerland thanks to a stubborn defence, slick midfield and in David Villa and Fernando Torres, a deadly striker partnership.
The only mystery is why it took them so long. Their only other major tournament win came at the 1964 European Championship. For a country blessed with some of the finest soccer players in the world and boasting perhaps the greatest domestic league, it beggared belief that the national team continually fluffed its lines on the big stage.
Spain's triumph in 1964 came on home soil as they defeated the USSR in the final in front of 90,000 people at the Bernabeu. Home advantage has not always been lucky though as possibly their greatest disappointment also came in Spain, at the 1982 World Cup. A star-studded Spanish side failed to deal with the weight of expectation on their shoulders and after scraping through the first group stage, went out in the second.
Since then Spain made it no further than the quarter finals in a major international tournament until Euro 2008. They even went out in the group stage of the World Cup in 1998 having been named as one of the pre-tournament favourites.
With such a history of disappointment the outpouring of emotion that greeted Spain's victory over Germany in the final was understandable. Fans throughout the country flocked into squares and public places to celebrate the end of 44 years of hurt courtesy of Luis Aragones and his team.
Spain's triumph was based on a core of young players including David Villa, Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas. All in their early twenties, they are leading the way for a generation of soccer players that could dominate European and even world soccer for years to come.