Spain did not enter the inaugural World Cup of 1930, but qualified for the Italy-hosted tournament of 1934. They progressed as far as the quarter-finals, drawing 1-1 with Italy, but losing 1-0 in a replay.
A combination of the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War denied Spain competitive football until the 1950 World Cup. They headed their qualifying group, ahead of England, Chile and the USA, progressing to the final round. However, the Spaniards were subsequently defeated by Brazil and Sweden, though gaining a creditable draw with eventual winners Uruguay. Their 4th place was their best performance in the tournament. Spain failed to qualify for another major tournament until the 1962 World Cup. They were eliminated at the group stage, having been drawn alongside Brazil, Czechoslovakia and Mexico.
Following success at the European Championships of 1964, Spain were automatic qualifiers for the England-hosted World Cup of 1966. However, they again disappointed, losing to Argentina and West Germany and beating only Switzerland, exiting in the first round.
Having failed to qualify in 1970 and 1974, Spain qualified comfortably for the 1978 finals, losing only away to Romania. They made an inauspicious start to the finals, losing 2-1 to Austria and a subsequent goalless draw with Brazil and a 1-0 win over Sweden couldn`t prevent their elimination.
Spain, with high expectations, hosted the first 24-team World Cup finals in 1982. They started poorly again, with a 1-1 draw with group “minnows” Honduras. However, an impressive 2-1 victory over Yugoslavia saw them progress to the second stage, despite a 1-0 loss to Northern Ireland. They were drawn in Group B alongside West Germany and England. Following a 2-1 loss to the Germans and a goalless draw with England, Spanish fans were again disappointed.
Spain topped their qualifying group for the 1986 Mexico-hosted tournament. Following an opening 1-0 defeat by Brazil, they progressed with victories over Northern Ireland and Algeria. In the second round, Spain thrashed undefeated Denmark 5-1 to set up a quarter-final clash with Belgium. Spain`s campaign ended with Belgium winning 5-4 on penalties.
In 1990, Spain qualified impressively from a group containing the Republic of Ireland, Hungary, Northern Ireland and Malta. They opened their finals campaign with an unimpressive 0-0 draw with Uruguay, but recovered to beat Korea and Belgium. However, a 2-1 second round loss to Yugoslavia saw them again exit earlier than expected.
Spain qualified very impressively for the 1994 tournament and were confidently expected to qualify from Group C. They drew with Korea and Germany, needing a 3-1 win over Bolivia to ensure their progress. A straightforward 3-0 win over Switzerland set up a quarter final with Italy. In the dying minutes of the game, Spanish midfielder Luis Enrique was left with a broken nose, having been fouled inside the area, but no penalty was awarded. Italy won 2-1.
1998 was one of the most disappointing World Cup campaigns for Spain. They qualified easily enough, undefeated in a qualifying group containing Yugoslavia and the Czech Republic. At the finals their qualification was confidently expected from a group containing Bulgaria, Nigeria and Paraguay. In their opening fixture, against Nigeria, they led 1-0 and 2-1 but the Africans eventually won 3-2. Fans were again disappointed by a goalless draw with Paraguay. The Spaniards thrashed Bulgaria 6-1 in their final group fixture, offering some hope of progression. However, Spanish hopes were dashed when Paraguay beat Nigeria 3-1, leaving the Spaniards in 3rd place and out of the tournament at the first hurdle.
Qualifying for South Korea 2002 went as expected with Spain topping their qualifying group. In the finals, they were drawn in Group B, alongside Paraguay, South Africa and Slovenia. The Spaniards won all three group games, facing the Republic of Ireland in the second phase. Despite being left with 9 men, due to injuries, in extra-time, Spain held on for a win on penalties, progressing to a quarter-final showdown with the hosts. Fernando Morientes had a goal disallowed as the referee deemed the ball to have one out of play, though replays showed that it hadn`t! The ensuing penalty shootout saw Spain defeated, facing another, highly controversial quarter-final exit.
Spain struggled in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. Despite mixed results they managed a playoff spot, defeating Slovakia 6-2 on aggregate. In the finals, they were drawn in an easy group and progressed with wins over Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. However, they were eliminated in the second round by a more experienced French side.
Goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta is the all-time most capped player for the Spanish national team. Having started his playing career at his hometown club UDA, he went on to play for Deportivo Alaves, before joining Athletic Bilbao in 1980, with whom he won consecutive La Liga titles in 1983 and 1984. A subsequent spell at Barcelona resulted in 4 La Liga titles and a European Cup win. He made his international debut in January 1985 and represented Spain on 126 occasions, including the World Cups of 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998.
Gonzalez Blanco, usually known as Raul, has spent his entire club career with Real Madrid, winning 6 league titles and is widely viewed as one of the best forwards of all time. Since his full international debut in October 1996, he has scored a record 44 times for the national side. The former captain has made more international appearances for Spain than any other outfield player (102), second only to Andoni Zubizarreta. Of his 44 international goals, Raul scored 35 goals in competitive games, 6 of which were in the finals of major tournaments, including 5 from 11 appearances in World Cup qualifiers and finals. Raul played his last game for Spain in a 3-2 loss to Northern Ireland in qualifying for Euro 2008. However, he has yet to announce his international retirement so is still available for the national team, if required.
Spain are a best-priced 6/1 to lift the 2010 World Cup. Despite being ranked no. 1 in the world by FIFA, the Spaniards` best World Cup result is a 4th place in 1950. There is undoubtedly better value to be found in the 2010 World Cup market when taking advantage of bookmakers` sign up or free bet offers.
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