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How many times have Spain qualified for the round of 16 of the World Cup? What is their record?

Spain have qualified from World Cup Group E on goal difference and will face Morocco in the round of 16.

Roddy Cons
Spain have qualified from World Cup Group E on goal difference and will face Morocco in the round of 16.
Juan FlorDiarioAS

Spain have sneaked through to the round of 16 in the Qatar 2022 World Cup on goal difference after a disappointing 2-1 defeat Japan seeing them finish second in Group E after an earlier thrashing of Costa Rica and a draw with Germany,

Luis Enrique’s side will face surprise package Morocco in the round of 16, with the match at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan scheduled for Tuesday, 6 December, with kick-off at 10am ET. Should they get through that tie, they would then go on to take on either the winners of Group H or the runners-up of Group G, which will be settled on Friday, in the quarter-finals.

The Spaniards are, of course, no strangers to playing in the knockout stages of the tournament, although they have, surprisingly enough, only made it past the quarter-final stage on one occasion – in 2010, when they went on to lift the World Cup trophy.

How many times have Spain reached the round of 16?

Since the round of 16 as we know it was established in the 1986 edition in Mexico, La Roja have now been among the best 16 teams in the competition in eight out of 10 tournaments.

Group stage elimination: 1998, 2014

Spain’s worst performances in the last 36 years have come in 1998 and 2014, when they failed to make it out of the group stages. A defeat to Nigeria and a draw against Paraguay put paid to their hopes of World Cup glory in France, while a disastrous defence of their trophy in Brazil saw them heavily beaten by the Netherlands and lose to Chile in their opening two matches.

El histórico golazo de van Persie que supuso el empate transitorio en Salvador de Bahía
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Van Persie marcó el 1-1 con este cabezazo sorpresivo que hizo una parábola sobre Iker Casillas.Reuters

Round of 16 elimination: 1990, 2006, 2018

Spain have made as far as the round of 16 and no more in three of the last nine tournaments prior to this year. In 1990, they lost to Yugoslavia in extra-time having won a group containing Belgium, Uruguay and South Korea. A Zinedine Zidane-inspired France knocked them out at the same stage in 2006, while they were cruelly beaten in a penalty shootout by host nation Russia in 2018.

Quater-final elimination: 1986, 1994, 2002

The Spaniards have been eliminated in the quarter-finals on three occasions in the last nine World Cups, the first of which came in Mexico in 1986, when they again lost on penalties, this time to Belgium. In the USA in 1994, a late Roberto Baggio strike saw them beaten by eventual finalists Italy in the last eight, while they suffered yet more penalty heartache against hosts South Korea in 2002.

World Cup final glory: 2010

And, of course, we mustn’t forget about 2010, the year that will forever go down in history in Spanish soccer circles. After a disappointing opening loss to Switzerland, Vicente del Bosque’s Spain posted wins against Honduras, Chile, Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and, finally, the Netherlands, to get their hands on the World Cup trophy for the very first – and so far only – time.

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Different World Cup formats before 1986

Prior to 1986, the World Cup had been played in a variety of different formats, which did not include a round of 16. In 1950, for instance, Spain finished in fourth place but finished bottom of a four-team group, which was the final round.

The exception was the 1934 competition in Italy, which effectively started at the round of 16 stage. Spain beat Brazil in their match before losing to the hosts in a quarter-final replay (remember those).

All in all, in 11 World Cups that have included a so-called ‘round of 16′, Spain have now got that far, or gone further, on nine occasions.


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