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Del Bosque close to assuming mantle of greatness
Spain's Vicente Del Bosque is two victories away from emulating West Germany's Helmut Schoen on Sunday, to date the only coach to win both the World Cup and the European Championship.
Del Bosque 61, took over from Luis Aragones after Euro 2008 and lifted the World Cup two years later after a relatively seamless transition owing to the respect of the squad for a man who twice conquered Europe with Real Madrid.
His success two years ago saw King Juan Carlos bestow the title of the 1st Marquis of Del Bosque in recognition of his achievements and now the moustachioed coach must conquer another summit - if Portugal can first be waylaid in the semi-finals and then Germany or Italy dispatched in the final.
If the Spanish do win the title they will become the first side ever to win three consecutive major international tournaments and, given the form of the Germans in particular, Del Bosque has his work cut out even considering he presides over a supremely-talented generation of players.
It had been Aragones who cast off four decades of under-achievement in masterminding success at Euro 2008 - Spain's first major tournament triumph since winning the European Championship on home soil in 1964.
Whereas England are still waiting for more glory after their own home win at 1966 World Cup, the Furia Roja have gone from strength to strength.
Del Bosque inherited a specific playing style -- the "tiki-taka" (short passing, movement and keeping possession) used to great effect by Barcelona -- and a group of fabulous players who can fill a variety of roles a la total football as practiced by the Dutch in the 1970s.
The coach's serious mien and calm persona appears to be bringing dividends, as is a touch of modesty.
"We have been lucky to have such a marvellous generation of players, players who are genuinely good but also nice people, humble and selfless," he said last year, making sure that the men on the pitch take all the credit.
Under Del Bosque Spain have become a true lean machine.
He led Spain to 10 wins in 10 World Cup qualifiers and, after winning in South Africa, La Roja qualified for Euro 2012 with eight wins out of eight.
Their only competitive defeats under Del Bosque are a 2-0 loss to the United States at the Confederations Cup in 2009 and the 1-0 reverse to Switzerland in Durban in their opening World Cup group game - from which they spectacularly recovered.
Mutual respect means the players play for Del Bosque, not least the Barcelnoa contingent even given his past stewardship of Real.
He spent the majority of his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu, winning five Liga titles and four Spanish Cups between 1974 and 1982.
A distinguished player who was part of Spain's squad at the 1980 European Championship finals in Italy, Del Bosque has gone on to become an even more distinguished coach.
After replacing John Toshack in 1999, Del Bosque led Madrid to two Champions Leagues and two La Liga crowns.
However, his contract was not renewed in the summer of 2003, with president Florentino Perez convinced he was not the right man to lead his so-called "galacticos".
That was a big mistake, and a decision which still rankles with Del Bosque, who recently rejected the club's belated attempts to honour him publicly for his services as a player and a coach.
Despite his fantastic record at the Bernabeu, Del Bosque was practically lost from the game for the five years after his departure, except for an unsuccessful spell in Turkey with Besiktas.
But he has proven to be well-suited to coaching at international level.
And he does not shirk tough decisions - such as benching Fernando Torres when he feels the team need to adopt a cautious style, as against Italy in their first group game.
Portugal believe they have a masterplan to upset the applecart but Del Bosque promises Spain's fans that "we will be taking special care of Cristiano Ronaldo."
If they do, he will be 90 minutes from history.
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