Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta has announced his retirement from international football after Spain's round-of-16 exit on Sunday. Spain was stretched to the limit by Russia and the host nation won the game on penalties to coast to the quarterfinal.
Iniesta did not feature in the starting XI and replaced David Silva in the 67th minute. His slick passing and wily movements created some much needed momentum in the second half but wasn't enough for La Roja to progress.
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"Sometimes the endings are not as one dreams," Iniesta said post the match.
"It is a reality that is my last match with the national team, at the individual level a wonderful stage is over. Overall, it is surely the saddest day of my life and career," he added.
Iniesta played 131 times for his country, netting 13 times – including the iconic World Cup winning goal in 2010.
"The important thing is to find the way to success again. It is not easy, it is more complicated than it seems, but the national team will continue," he said.
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Spanish interim coach Fernando Hierro said Iniesta will remain one of the greatest players to have played for the national team. "I left Iniesta out because I knew what this match required. I am grateful to Andres, he is one of the greatest player in the history and I explained (it to) him.
This could be a long match and we had analysed the opponent thoroughly and we thought we will need something different around the 75th minute. He was outstanding on the pitch and he played like it was his first international after he came in."
Iniesta was also a crucial element of Spain's golden generation, which saw the side clinch the European Championship in 2008, the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship again in 2012.
Gerard Pique, whose handball gave Russia its opening penalty in the 40th minute and allowed the side to get back on level terms, had indicated in January that he would also leave the national team after the World Cup but there has been no official word regarding the same.