22nd June 1986 was the first time I tasted disappointment as a Spanish supporter, sat around a radio with the Spanish Au Pair who had introduced me to the talents of La Roja and such legends as Zubizaretta and Butragueño (the latter scoring 4 against Denmark in the last 16 game).
So began 22 years of disappointment and underachievement – immense players like Hierro, Mendieta, Raúl, Luis Enrique, Morientes, Pep Guardiola, Etxeberria and Sergi always threatened greatness but seemed to fluff it at the major tournaments (some dodgy refereeing decisions aside) with some particular lowlights losing to the hosts Portugal in Euro 2004 to miss the knock-out stage, Stuart Pearce’s penalty in Euro 1996 after two disallowed goals and a frustrating 0-0 draw with Paraguay in 1998 (meaning missing the last 16 despite spanking Bulgaria 6-1 in the last group game).
Then 2008 happened. The greatness that La Roja had always threatened materialised with sublime, skilled football and the mastery and maturity of players throughout the squad like Casillas, Ramos, Puyol, Xabi, Iniesta and Villa. Last week saw Spain win its third major tournament in a row. Spain have now not conceded a single goal in knockout football since 2006 and the 4-0 thrashing of Italy in the final last Sunday showed that this record is not just built on a miserly defence but on exquisite attacking talent.
So thank you Spain. Thanks for the last three years. It has been well worth the wait and I feel so very proud to call myself a fan!