The claim that the Spanish national team has always been adversely affected by the presence of numerous foreigners at Spanish clubs is open to dispute, as Spain’s worst years were between 1964 and 1973 when no players from outside Spain played in La Liga. Spain were knocked out in the first round of the 1966 World Cup and failed to qualify for the 1970 and 1974 events, although they have been ever-present since then. Lady Luck has never smiled on Spain in the World Cup finals, which partly explains why their best result is fourth place in the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil™.
Spain also failed to lift the trophy in the 1930s when they probably had the best team in their history. In 1934 ,Spain started as one of the favourites but suffered the misfortune of drawing hosts Italy in the quarter-finals.
According to contemporary reports, under the attentive gaze of Benito Mussolini, first a Belgian referee and then a Swiss official -the match went to a replay – shattered the hopes of a Spanish side in which goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora was the outstanding player.
That golden age of Spanish footballers then ended with Spain being unable to play in the 1938 World Cup in France due to the civil war that devastated the country between 1936 and 1939. It would be another half-century before Spain were again favourites to lift the World Cup.
In Mexico ’86, after brushing aside Denmark 5-1 in the last sixteen, Spain were beaten by Belgium on penalties in the quarter-finals after the match finished 1-1.
In USA ’94, Spain once again fell at the quarter-final stage, this time in a 2-1 defeat to Italy following Roberto Baggio’s goal in the last few minutes, shortly after Julio Salinas had wasted a wonderful chance. Spain also came close to achieving something big in the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, where errors by the match officials, who disallowed two perfectly legitimate goals, led to Spain’s elimination at the hands of Korea Republic in a penalty shoot-out.