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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 July 2018

Andres Iniesta on Spain retirement: Sometimes the endings are not as one dreams

The man who scored the goal that clinched the 2010 World Cup for Spain announces his international retirement following exit to Russia at last-16 stage

Andres Iniesta's last kick in a Spain shirt was a successful penalty in the shoot-out against Russia, but it wasn't enough to stop them crashing out of the 2018 World Cup. Peter Powell / EPA
Andres Iniesta's last kick in a Spain shirt was a successful penalty in the shoot-out against Russia, but it wasn't enough to stop them crashing out of the 2018 World Cup. Peter Powell / EPA

Andres Iniesta could barely hide his disappointment, the anguish writ large upon his face.

Spain were eliminated from the World Cup, defeated 4-3 on penalties by hosts Russia in Moscow on Sunday. Much to everyone’s surprise, the 2010 champions had been knocked out in the first knockout round by the tournament’s lowest-ranked side.

And so Iniesta’s final World Cup match proved his last for Spain, too. At 34, and already the match-winner in the final eight years ago, the former Barcelona midfielder announced his international retirement immediately afterwards.

Stopping for the assembled journalists deep inside the Luzhniki Stadium, he confirmed that his days in Spanish red were done.

“Today was my last game with the national team,” said Iniesta, who started the last-16 clash on the bench and was not introduced until the 67th minute. "Sometimes the endings are not as one dreams.”

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Far from it: Iniesta described it as the saddest day of an international career that spanned 12 years and 131 caps. In that time, he helped seal success at the European Championship in 2008 and 2012, and scored the goal to clinch the 2010 World Cup, although Spain's past three major tournaments have ended before the quarter-final stage.

Last month, Iniesta left Barcelona following 22 years at the Nou Camp, having won 32 trophies and made 674 senior appearances. A one-club man until that point, he has signed for Japanese top-flight team Vissel Kobe.

“As a whole, surely it has to be [the saddest day], at the moment elimination and on a personal level,” Iniesta said. “But life goes on and we need to think of other things now.

“Hopefully in a near future we can change these disappointing situations of the last Euros and World Cup. I believe there’s enough players and people to find the right way and I wish they find it.”

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Iniesta’s farewell was frustratingly brief. Dropped to the bench by manager Fernando Hierro, his final contribution to his country’s cause was an expertly dispatched penalty in the shootout after the Russia encounter had finished 1-1.

Although his omission came as a shock to many, Iniesta said he had been told beforehand that he would not be starting.

“Of course, you want to play and you always expect the best,” he said. “The manager always thinks the best for the team and he’s got to make the decisions even though one agrees with them or not.”

Asked to assess Spain’s World Cup, Iniesta said: “Well, it can’t be very positive when you’re out of it before the quarter-final. But ultimately we tried everything, in a more accurate or less successful way, it wasn’t enough.

“In football, when you lose it’s because you missed many things. What we’ve done wasn’t enough. However, it isn’t the moment to analyse that and the circumstances; there will be more time to fix it in a near future.”