Spain's top 10 moments in sports history

Originally Published: July 12, 2010
By Samuel Chi | Special to Page 2

Spain CelebratesValeria Witters/Witters Sport/US PresswireWhere does the 2010 World Cup championship rank among Spain's all-time sports highlights?

Why did Spain's players stubbornly refuse to sing their national anthem before taking the pitch against the Netherlands in the World Cup final?

Because the famous Marcha Real, perhaps the oldest national anthem in the world, has no words. The joke is that, had there been lyrics to the melody, gunfights might break out over the singer's preferred regional language.

But Sunday's overtime victory has made Spain whole; it's now one nation under the FIFA World Cup Trophy. The Catalans, Basques and Castilians are united by the greatest sporting triumph of their nation.

Over the years, Spanish teams and individuals have enjoyed many great victories. These, in descending order, are Spain's 10 best:

10. 1989 French Open

Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 17, pulled off a stunning upset of Steffi Graf in the women's final. Sanchez Vicario's victory handed Graf her only defeat in nine consecutive Slam tournaments and denied her a sixth consecutive Grand Slam title.

9. 2009 Tour de France

Alberto Contador fended off Astana teammate Lance Armstrong to win his second Tour. Contador's victory was the fourth consecutive Tour win by a Spanish rider.

8. 2008 Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal had already won four French Open titles before this tournament, but after beating Roger Federer in a legendary final, he was finally able to shed the label of being a clay-court specialist.

7. 1982 World Cup

Spain was reintegrating into the West after the death of dictator Francisco Franco when it played host to the 1982 World Cup. The Spaniards advanced out of the first round, but failed to survive a second round of group play.

6. 1995 Tour de France

Miguel Indurain won a then-record fifth consecutive Tour (Armstrong later won seven in a row). During his career, Indurain also won back-to-back Giro d'Italias, but he never captured a title in his home tour, Vuelta a España.

5. 1979 British Open

Seve Ballesteros burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old wunderkind when he finished second at the Open Championship in 1976. Three years later, he defeated Jack Nicklaus by three strokes at Royal Lytham to win the first of his three Open Championships and five majors overall.

4. 2006 FIBA World Championship

This was the first domino to fall for Spain in terms of team victories at major world sporting events. Spain won all nine tournament games and trounced Greece (which had beaten Team USA in the semis) in the final. Spanish star Pau Gasol has since added two NBA titles with the Lakers.

3. 1992 Barcelona Olympics

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had helped bring the Olympics to his hometown, and the host nation didn't disappoint -- on or off the field -- hauling in a record 13 golds and 22 medals overall.

2. Euro 2008

Forever known as an underachieving side in major international competition, Spain shed that label for good by beating Germany 1-0 in the title game in Vienna. It was only the beginning ...

1. 2010 World Cup

A team with seven starters from FC Barcelona and captained by Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Spain cemented its claim as the football kings of the world. It was fitting, for modern Spain, that the scorer of the title-winning goal, Andres Iniesta, is a Castilian who's played his entire career for Barcelona -- and of course, Spain.

Samuel Chi is a freelance writer for Sports Media Exchange, a national freelance writing network.

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