Spain had long been looked upon as underachievers on the international stage, but when they arrived in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup as European Champions, they were red hot favourites.
A team who picked opponents apart with their passing and creativity, thanks to players like David Villa, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas and Xabi Alonso, were built on a solid foundation at the back.
With captain Iker Casillas in goal, and Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos in front, Spain were a force and would be tough to stop. Then there was Carles Puyol. He would do anything to ensure La Roja would win the World Cup for the first time.
It was Iniesta’s extra-time strike against Holland in the Final in Johannesburg, with penalties looming, that ultimately saw them crowned the kings of the world, but it was thanks to Puyol they were even there in the first place.
Known more for stopping goals than scoring them, the Barcelona skipper had only netted twice for Spain in 88 international appearances when they met Germany in Durban for their semi-final showdown.
Spain dominated possession against their previously free-scoring opponents, but the game was deadlocked at 0-0 until Vicente Del Bosque’s side won a 73rd-minute corner. Xavi took it and, rising above everyone else, Puyol powered home a fierce header giving Manuel Neuer no chance in the German goal.
It was enough to win the game and send Spain into their first World Cup final. While things would become even better for them four days later, his semi-final decider was a truly magic moment for Carles Puyol.
Puyol will be looking to add to his success with Spain when he leads his country at Star Sixes this summer. Make sure you don’t miss the inaugural tournament at The O2, where 12 international teams will go head-to-head from 13-16 July for the first trophy. Get your tickets by visiting Ticketmaster or AXS.