Spanish “La Furia” for novices or the curious
Spain, as a football nation debuted on the international stage during the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. Immediately the national team also earned the nickname ‘La Furia’ (the furious). These ‘angry Spaniards’ won silver in the tournament with a 3-1 victory against the Netherlands in the silver finals.
Silver finals? Yes, that's because the tournament was based on the Bergvall principle, a tournament form designed by the Swedish water polo player, journalist and sports politician Erik Bergvall (1880-1950). This complicated system meant that losing quarter and semi-finalists got an extra chance of a medal having already struggled against each other before. The winner then played against the losing finalist in what was coined the ‘silver final’.
The ghost of Olympic football?
In connection with the Spaniards' very direct and aggressive playing style in the tournament, a Dutch editor - with the remarkable name Hollander - stated the following to Spanish journalist, Manolo Castro.
“Oh, la furia de los españoles! Era el fantasma del fútbol olímpico”.
Which translates to “Oh, this fury of the Spaniards! It's the ghost of the Olympic football”. The origin of the angry Spaniards has a historical relationship with the Spanish raids on Dutch cities in the 16th and 17th centuries (1568-1648), which had also been titled The Spanish Fury.
Spanish football has seen an evolution since those violent origins and is celebrated more for it’s refined passing culture these days. If you enjoy watching the modern and subtle variation of La Furia you can bet on Spanish football here.
From La Furia to Tiki-Taka
The Spanish national team's style of play was first seen as La Furia and later became La Furia Roja, but in recent years, has become recognised as the passing-based ‘tiki-taka’ football.
This style is rooted in Holland's ‘total football’, first seen in the 1970’s under Dutch coach, Rinus Michels; allowing players to run free and was also brought to Barcelona by Michels and later by Dutch maestro Johan Cruyff who managed the ‘Dream Team’ at the club from 1988-96.
On the other hand, Spain reached the quarter finals in the 1934 World Cup, they came fourth in 1950 and then took another 36 years to reach another quarter final. In the 1986 World Cup, they lost to Belgium (5-4) in a penalty shoot-out. Two more quarter final appearances in 1994 and 2002 ensured Spain was touted by many as the perennial underachievers of world football.
In Europe, they did not fare much better during this period. They won Euro 1964 and were runners-up in 1984. Besides the win in 1964 and second in 1984 Spain did not have any medals to show for in either tournament. That is, before winning three championship titles in a row between 2008 and 2012. Historically, therefore, Spain can no longer be called the underachievers of world football.