Iker Casillas pointed to Spain’s quarter-final penalty shootout win over Italy in Euro 2008 as the moment that changed the direction of the national team.
La Roja went on to win the tournament, claim the World Cup two years later and defended their continental crown in 2012 during a golden age for the national team.
“The moment was penalties against Italy. Many of us are convinced that day changed everything and we’re world champions and twice European champions,” Casillas told an interview, AS reports.
“Without those penalties we were out, and it’s a disappointment again.
“That was a team with 10 players who weren’t regularly with the squad. We got through the first hurdle and after beating Italy, the round of suffering, we were champions of Europe.
“We played our best match with Russia, in the semi-final. We knew we were going to win the Euros although the first 15 minutes of the Final were disastrous until Fernando Torres hit the post.”
The late Luis Aragones was on the Spain bench for the 2008 triumph and Casillas spoke warmly of his relationship with the legendary trainer, who passed way in 2014.
“Luis was vital. We shouldn’t forget the previous teams with Coaches like Inaki Saez or Jose Antonio Camacho, and the youth team bosses such as Juan Santiesteban or Gines Carvajal,” Casillas continued.
“Luis’ loss was a blow. We had a very close relationship. He decided not to call Raul for [World Cup] 2006. I was the vice-captain and didn’t believe I was ready to be captain.
“It’s not just wearing the armband but taking decisions, and you’ll always be in the spotlight for good and for bad.
“He told me I wasn’t ready but gave me time to prove I was. I said I could do it because I had good teachers. From there our relationship changed. He called a lot and asked about players.
“It was a difficult time of continuous blows. Then we won the European Championship. I remember Murcia, Oviedo and Cadiz. It was excessive.”
Aragones had resigned by the 2010 World Cup, Vicente Del Bosque taking his place, and Casillas proved crucial by saving from Arjen Robben in the Final.
“I had a thousand things in my mind. I decided to stand up to him, I knew him from Real Madrid and knew he was fast and went left and I went to that side,” he went on.
“I waited until the end and put out my foot when I saw him hit it. I knew the ball hadn’t gone in. Everything happens in two seconds in your head. Everything stops and you say ‘thank goodness.’”