When you are, traditionally, one of football’s biggest under-achievers, a World Cup semi-final is a rare opportunity to shine.
That is why it is no surprise to hear Spain’s leading stars talking up the chance on Wednesday against Germany to shake off decades of hurt.
Despite producing quality footballers, and in Real Madrid and Barcelona two of the biggest club sides in the world, Spain have, until recently, failed to punch their weight on the international stage.
That changed in 2008 when La Furia Roja lifted the European Championships, and two years down the line, they have the chance to finally put to bed the tag of perennial flops at the highest level.
Spain have reached a World Cup semi final just once before, way back in 1950. Even the likes of Austria and Poland – hardly footballing powerhouses – have better records.
“We know the Germany match is the most important in our history – more than the Euro 2008 final,” said skipper Iker Casillas.
Midfielder Xabi Alonso added: “It’s an historic occasion, we are very close and we cannot waste this opportunity. Germany is a team above all else, they fight for the common good. Their collective spirit is more than demonstrated and it is also an attractive team. They will be a very strong opponent. When we go onto the field we pay no attention to history. We have to be motivated and pay special attention. We have to be solid and ensure they do not open the scoring. Germany showed against Argentina and England that they are well developed in scoring goals.”
And Andres Iniesta was another who had more than half an eye on Sunday’s final.
“We’re looking forward to this game starting so we can lead the team to the final,” he said. “We’re not just thinking about the semi-finals, we’re thinking about the final and lifting the World Cup. That would be great. We must play a very complete game to win. Germany is a great team, but we really want to be in the final. The logic says it will be an open game in which the two attack. The important thing is that we can play our game, have the ball. That would be a very nice. There are no favourites at this point in the World Cup. We must be convinced that we will play the final.”