David Healy's hat-trick was the wake-up call that fired Spain to world domination: Luis Garcia
Luis Garcia has revealed that Spain's shock defeat to a David Healy inspired Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in 2006 was the 'wake-up call' that led to his country dominating world football.
In the Euro qualifier 13 years ago, ex-Liverpool ace Garcia came off the bench in the second half for Fernando Torres in Belfast to join a star studded line-up including Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, David Villa and Raul but could not prevent a famous 3-2 victory for the home team with Healy netting a memorable hat-trick.
It was a stunning loss for the Spanish, leaving manager Luis Aragones under serious pressure. The powers that be in Spain stuck by him and he ditched big names like Raul and built the side around Barcelona pair Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
With Northern Ireland finishing third in the table, Spain roared back to qualify for the Euro 2008 finals as group winners and went on to win the tournament. In an outstanding period they added the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euros for good measure.
"The game with Northern Ireland was an important one for us," recalled Garcia back in Belfast doing his coaching badges.
"It was a very bad game from our side. We scored twice but it wasn't enough. The Northern Ireland team did very well on the night. They pushed forward and created chances and a hat-trick for Healy says everything.
"That moment actually proved to be very good for Spain. It was a wake-up call for us and the team reacted very well in the games that followed and we managed to go on and win the European Championships and obviously did very well after that too.
"In the Northern Ireland game I remember coming on and there was a great atmosphere. It was a cold night and we struggled. The balls over the top of our defence were killing us. Healy scored a hat-trick and it is fair to say he was the best player in the game."