Your Crash Course on Spain's Soccer Team

In Spain, football — the sport known in the United States as soccer — is the most popular sport. The Spanish men's national soccer team won the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and also has been successful in the UEFA European championship and multiple Olympic tournaments. The Spanish word for football is "futbol."

Soccer, aka football or "futbol," is the most popular sport in Spain. (Image: Getty Images/Luis Diaz Devesa)

The colors of the Spanish national soccer team are red, white and blue. Their home uniform consists of a red jersey with yellow trim, dark blue shorts and black socks, while their current away kit is predominantly white.

Spain's squad has earned the nickname "La Furia Roja," which translates to The Red Fury. Fans also refer to them as "Los Toros," (Fighting Bulls), as the animal and the sport of bullfighting are treasured nationwide.

The History of Spanish Football

Football came to Spain in the late 1900s as an import from the British Isles. Spanish students who had studied in Britain brought knowledge of the game home with them, and British immigrants to Spain and visiting sailors brought football culture to the country from their homelands. In his 2003 book Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football, Phil Ball states that the oldest official Spanish football club, Huelva Recreation Club, was formed at the end of 1889 by British immigrants working at the Spanish Rio Tinto Company.

Games and Clubs

In 1890, Spain's first official football game was organized in Seville. The opposing teams were Huelva Recreation Club and Sevilla FC, and most of the players on both teams were British. Sevilla FC, like the club Gimnàstic de Tarragona that formed in 1886, did not form a regular team until the 20th century. Sevilla FC's team formed in 1905 and Gimnàstic de Tarragona formed in 1914. The Madrid Football Club was formed in 1902 and in the early 1900s other teams sprung up, including Club Vizcaya, FC Barcelona, New Foot-Ball de Madrid and Club Español de Fútbol.

Olympics and La Liga

Regional Spanish soccer teams began competing against one another in 1915. The national team, known as La Selección, played at the Olympic Games for the first time in 1920, winning the silver medal. In 1926, football became recognized as a professional sport in Spain.

A national league was first proposed in 1927, and 10 Spanish teams were admitted to the league's First or "Primera" Division during 1928. These top-tier teams were Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, Athletic Madrid, Real Sociedad, Racing Santander, RCD Español, Arenas Club de Getxo, CE Europa and Real Unión.

Currently, Spain boasts 20 La Liga teams. Their highest-ranking teams include Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid, Valencia and Getafe.

International Success

Spain's soccer team has had many international successes since its silver medal in the 1920 Olympics. In 1950, the men's team placed fourth in the FIFA World Cup, and in 1964 it won the UEFA European Championship. Spain was runner-up in the UEFA championship in 1984 and won the Olympic gold medal in 1992. The team also has been very successful in the 21st century, winning silver at the 2000 Olympics, winning the 2008 UEFA European Championship and placing third in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.

2010 World Cup Champions

Spain won their first world cup in 2010 in South Africa, when they advanced to the final for the first time ever by defeating Germany 1–0. The final game was against the Netherlands. Andrés Iniesta scored the match's only goal.

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who only conceded two goals throughout the entire tournament, won the Golden Glove award. David Villa, who tied for top scorer of the tournament, won the Bronze Ball and Silver Boot awards.

Spain's Current Soccer Team and Coaching

Since the World Cup win in 2010, Spain has failed to achieve similar success.

In 2012, Spain's soccer team qualified at the top of Group I in qualification for UEFA Euro 2012 with a perfect 100-percent record. The squad became the first team to retain the European Championship, winning the final 4–0 against Italy. However, two years later they were eliminated from the group stage of the 2014 World Cup. At Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, they only reached the round of 16.

As of June 2019, the Spanish national soccer team's FIFA world ranking was seventh.

Robert Moreno is the current coach of the Spanish national soccer team, after Luis Enrique stepped down from the position in June 2019 due to personal reasons. Stars of the team include captain Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi, Iker Casillas and David Villa.

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