Before Spain finally got a 44-year monkey off its back at Euro 2008, La Furia Roja was the perennial underachiever of international football. So when Spain simply had to win its final group game against Yugoslavia, you could bet that the Spanish wouldn’t deliver. But this time the script would be different.
Three times Spain would fall behind to a tough Yugoslavian team, who played much of the second half with 10 men after Jokanović saw red. But even as Spain tied it at 3-3 thanks to Mendieta’s penalty, it was headed out of the competition due to Norway’s goalless draw with Slovenia. The Spanish bench waved the players forward, improbably praying for a miraculous winner. And Alfonso Pérez wrote himself into Spanish folklore by scoring his second, and his country’s fourth, goal of the night with a calm finish in incredibly tense circumstances. Spain had saved themselves but Yugoslavia would also be reprieved as they soon learned that they too had made the knockout phase due to a superior head-to-head record with Norway, who came third in the group. Perhaps Spain’s luck started to turn once and for all on this crazy day in Bruges.