2006 World Cup - Last 16. Spain were seeded and drawn in European qualifying group seven together with Belgium, Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia Herzogovina, Lithuania and San Marino. Luis Aragonés's side only finished second, but they beat Slovakia in the play-offs to qualify for the finals. In the finals they were drawn in group H together with Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, and finished top with maximum points. However they were eliminated in the first knock-out round after losing 1-3 to France. See World Cup 2006 link for reports and other details.
2002 World Cup - Quarter finals. Spain classified easily for the finals, topping their qualifying group with six wins and two draws, and were one of the eight seeded teams, being drawn in Group B together with Slovenia, Paraguay and South Africa. Camacho's side won through the group stage with maximum points, and beat Ireland to reach the quarter finals. However they were eliminated on penalties by co-hosts South Korea after some controversial refereeing decisions. See World Cup 2002 link for reports and other details.
1998 World Cup - Quarter finals. Spain carried on their impressive form in the period leading up to the 1998 World Cup in France, winning eight and drawing the other two of their qualifying games, and only losing one friendly out of four, to France. Results of qualifying matches were as follows:
Faeroe Islands: W 3-1 (Luis Enrique 2, Oli); W
2-6 (Alfonso 3, Luis Enrique, Hierro, Johanssen og)
Czech Republic: W 1-0 (Hierro pen); D 0-0
Slovakia: W 4-1 (Pizzi, Amor, Luis Enrique, Hierro); W 1-2 (Kiko, Amor)
Yugoslavia: W 2-0 (Guardiola pen, Raúl); D 1-1 (Hierro pen)
Malta: W 4-0 (Alfonso 2, Guardiola, Pizzi) ; W 0-3 (Guerrero 3)
Clemente had been playing a team packed with defenders, with some of these, including Nadal, Sergi, Luis Enrique (then playing full back for Real Madrid) and Hierro, playing in midfield. Nevertheless they had been scoring goals, and with a good performance also in the last world cup, were rated amongst the favourites for this one.
They went into the first match against Nigeria in an optimistic mood, and twice went into the lead, first from a Hierro free kick, and after Real Sociedad's Mutiu had equalised, from Raúl, who hit a first time volley past Deportivo's Rufai. However Zubizarreta inexplicably turned Lawal's cross into his own net fifteen minutes from time, and five minutes later Oliseh unleashed an unstoppable shot to win the game for Nigeria.
The disappointment against the African side was compounded by a poor goal-less draw against Paraguay, with Chilavert on unbeatable form, and Spain had one foot out of the competition. In the last match they rallied to beat Bulgaria 6-1, with goals from Morientes (2), Kiko (2), Hierro and Luis Enrique, but it was all academic as Paraguay beat Nigeria 3-1, and Spain were out.
Zubizarreta retired from active football, and Clemente carried on as team manager, one of the few to survive after the world cup. However he didn't last long, and a disastrous 3-2 defeat by Cyprus in the first game of the Euro 2000 qualifiers proved his undoing. Clemente had always been a controversial manager, and was never afraid to speak his mind (when told that Clemente had been named team coach, one joker was heard to remark 'yes, they have taken out his teeth and put in seats'). In the end he went, bringing to end an era in Spanish football, and with the appointment of José Antonio Camacho, a new day dawned....