MADRID: While Spain chases history at this year's European Championship, Vicente del Bosque is quietly looking to fill his trophy cabinet with the only major accolade missing from a quietly accomplished coaching career.
The former Real Madrid coach has navigated a career replete with successes matched by few, and winning the Euro 2012 title in Poland and Ukraine could place the unassuming 61-year-old Spaniard among the all-time greats.
Del Bosque replaced Luis Aragones after Spain's Euro 2008 victory and maintained the team's style and character, guiding them to their first World Cup triumph two years ago.
Del Bosque's four seasons at Madrid heralded the most important collective trophy haul since Miguel Munoz won nine Spanish leagues and two European Cups between 1960-74. Del Bosque won a pair of Champions League and Spanish league titles, an Intercontinental Cup and a European Super Cup.
“The most important thing is the players' talent, but their is also the question of organizing the team. That equilibrium is key _ talent and order,” Del Bosque told The Associated Press.
“I'm not someone who likes to give a lot of orders from the bench, but when the time comes and a solution is needed, of course I step in. But when the ball is on your foot, it's the player that has the influence.”
Helmut Schoen is the only other coach to have won European and world championships after guiding West Germany team to titles in 1972 and 1974, respectively.
Spain opens Group C against Italy on June 10 before facing Ireland and Croatia, with all three group games to be played in Gdansk, Poland.
Del Bosque's calm is piercing. On the sidelines _ and in person _ he never raises his voice or reveal emotions, preferring modest command. A droopy face and bloodshot eyes provide a basset hound-likeness that typifies the grandfatherly persona the Spanish have come to characterize him with.
Coaching talent such as Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Iker Casillas doesn't make the job too upsetting, either.
“I like to think that in 2012 that I did better job than in 2008. That every day I learn more,” said Del Bosque, himself a former Spain international. “My work has improved.”
Spain has won 33 of 36 competitive matches under Del Bosque, with both losses particularly stinging to his normally demure demeanor. Spain's 1-0 loss to Switzerland to open the World Cup was no omen, he insists, but a nightmare.
“That was the worst moment, it was the hardest, most difficult moment we experienced. I don't want another moment like that at the Euro,” Del Bosque said.
“We don't want to start the championship like that, we have to be ready for Italy because I wouldn't wish to go through that again. I think everyone listened better, even the coach. It was one of the toughest moments, if not the worst.”
Spain won its next six games in South Africa, including the 1-0 extra-time final over the Netherlands.
It was perfect in Euro 2012 qualifying to make it 14 straight competitive games without a loss _ one short of matching the record winning streak it set three years ago before losing to the United States in the Confederations Cup semifinals.
“The worst is when you don't have a way (to win) like (that) day,” Del Bosque remembered of a loss that left it equal with Brazils run of 35 games unbeaten in the 1990s.
Del Bosque has often said the hardest part of the job is having to leave talented players such as David Silva or Cesc Fabregas on the bench. With defender Carles Puyol injured, David Villa likely missing and Fernando Torres' form under question, Del Bosque faces a tougher challenge than in South Africa with key players like Xavi, Iniesta and Gerard Pique also having missed parts of the season because of injury.
But Del Bosque's ability to transmit confidence through calm is likely what helps his unassuming, humble squad of stars. Del Bosque prefers emotion on the field rather than off, even though he doesn't lead by example in either case.
“We have a group of players that are pretty intelligent and know how to play football and know that without emotion you can't do much on the field. If you're not motivated there's not much point in competing,” Del Bosque said.
“The most important thing is that these players show emotion. Without it, it's impossible to play.”