POTCHEFSTROOM - Vicente del Bosque promised continuity when he succeeded Luis Aragones after the triumph of Euro 2008 and has delivered spectacularly on that ambitious pledge.
Under the mild-mannered, avuncular 59-year-old, Spain have swept to 30 wins in 32 matches, including a perfect 10 victories during their World Cup qualifying campaign.
While Aragones favoured a brasher style and provoked his players to inspire them, Del Bosque is more of a kindly father figure, quietly coaxing the best out of his hugely talented squad and successfully fostering a harmonious atmosphere.
The only blots on his record are a 2-0 defeat by the United States at last year's Confederations Cup and the 1-0 reverse to Switzerland in their opening Group H match in South Africa.
Despite the shock of that setback, he refused to tinker with the European champions' fast-flowing, possession-based playing style, triumphantly leading the Spanish into a World Cup final for the first time.
The son of a railway worker father, Salamanca-born Del Bosque is admired for his honesty, discipline, strong work ethic and serenity and is gracious both in victory and defeat.
He reads widely over the media coverage of Spain's performances, is publicly respectful of others' opinions, however they are expressed, and willing to take on board criticism and consider changing tactics where needed.
"I learn more from Vicente than he learns from me," Spain's sporting director Fernando Hierro, who played under Del Bosque at La Liga giants Real Madrid, told reporters at the team's training base in Potchefstroom last month.
"For me he is like an encyclopaedia," Hierro added.
A Real man through and through, Del Bosque has not let allegiance to his former club, whom he coached to two Champions League and two league titles, colour his attitude to the national side.
He has proved equally capable of getting the best from Real players such as captain Iker Casillas, right back Sergio Ramos and midfielder Xabi Alonso as from key squad members like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol, who play for Real's arch rivals Barcelona.
His decision to select seven Barca players in his starting 11 for the semi-final against Germany, compared to three from Real, was proof that he is ready to cast aside any allegiance he may have to his former club for the good of the national side.
The 1-0 defeat of Germany in their last-four clash in Durban on Wednesday was particularly special for Del Bosque, falling during the important Spanish festival of San Fermin.
"During the day I was thinking a lot about my (deceased) father and brother, who both had the name Fermin," he said on Thursday in an internet chat.
"I remembered those closest to me, my family, who were suffering back in Madrid."comments