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After spending over a decade bogged down in disappointment, Spain waltzed their way back to football’s peak by reaching Sunday’s Euro 2024 final in Berlin. Winning two European Championships in 2008 and 2012, either side of their 2010 World Cup triumph, La Roja were set to dominate football for years to come. However, they fell from grace at astonishing speed. The players destined to replace their golden generation fell desperately short. Spain’s 2014 World Cup defence ended in early humiliation, battered 5-1 by the Netherlands, crashing out in the group stage.

The two-time defending champions were eliminated by Italy in the Euro 2016 last-16, with newspaper Marca labelling it “The End” for Vicente del Bosque’s La Roja.

Spain fell at the same stage in the 2018 World Cup against Russia on penalties, completing over 1,000 passes but failing to hurt the limited hosts.

A better showing at Euro 2020 took a young side to the semi-finals but the 2022 World Cup last-16 defeat by Morocco was another painful exit.

However, the Spanish football federation believed the team was close to where they needed to be.

They replaced coach Luis Enrique with Luis de la Fuente, who had coached national youth sides for years with success.

Despite early jitters, including a 2-0 defeat by Scotland last year, Spain stuck with their little-known coach and are now reaping the rewards.

De la Fuente earned their first silverware in 11 years by lifting the Nations League last summer, pledging it was only the beginning.

And so it proved, with La Roja the standout Euros team, dominating the toughest group featuring defending champions Italy, before beating hosts Germany and France.

What they have achieved seems remarkable given their line-up boasts few recognisable stars beyond Manchester City midfielder Rodri.

Barcelona winger Lamine Yamal, 16, will dazzle the football world for years to come and could earn that billing, but he is only just starting his career.

On the opposite flank Nico Williams has also burst into the limelight and may get a big move this summer from Athletic Bilbao.

Elsewhere the team features many ‘misfits’, including Marc Cucurella who has struggled at Chelsea, Saudi Arabia-based Aymeric Laporte, and others who are not standouts for their clubs.

However, their lack of superstars poses no problems. “I have 26 great players and I’m just lucky that they are Spanish,” said De la Fuente.

Unlike final opponents England, whose coach Gareth Southgate is sometimes reluctant to replace struggling icons, or France building around a sub-par Kylian Mbappe, Spain accept everyone is on an equal footing.

“The big difference to all the (other) countries is that we are a team and there is no one leader above the rest,” explained Barcelona’s Pedri before the tournament.

De la Fuente, more pragmatic than his predecessor, is profiting from his willingness to try different approaches.

Spain still enjoy possession but also release the explosive Yamal and Williams, fire in crosses and let them take risks to beat their markers.

While other coaches might have opted for one winger and a possession-friendly midfielder on the other flank, the 63-year-old goes full throttle with both.

Luis Enrique’s Spain tried to pass teams to death but at times in Euro 2024 La Roja have had less than 50 percent possession.

De la Fuente knows his players better than most of his counterparts did at the tournament, having coached the vast majority of them over the past few years.

He won the U19 Euros with Spain in 2013 and the U21 Euros in 2019, plus silver at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Seven of the starting line-up that day have played at Euro 2024.

“I know the players very well, what we had available to us and we needed time to do what we are seeing now,” said the coach this week.

“I am not surprised by it. Cooking this up… is a long process but we knew the decisions and the path we had to take.”

That continuity has proven vital in the international game where coaches do not typically have long to work with their players and has taken Spain to the verge of glory once more.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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