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Andres Iniesta confirms international retirement after Spain's World Cup exit

Andres Iniesta scored the most important goal in over a century of Spanish soccer history. He embodied Spain’s most successful era. He transformed the sport. And on Sunday, he said goodbye.

Iniesta confirmed after a deflating World Cup Round of 16 defeat to Russia that he will retire from the Spanish national team.

“A marvelous spell is over,” he told reporters. “Sometimes the end is not as you dreamed it.”

Iniesta, one of the greats of his generation, came off the bench in a 1-1 draw that ended in a penalty shootout loss. He announced afterward that it would be the last of his 131 appearances for La Roja.

Iniesta made those 131 appearances across 12 years, and was a key component of the team that won back-to-back-to-back Euro-World Cup-Euro titles in 2008, 2010 and 2012. He started in all three finals, and scored the only goal in South Africa in 2010, the one that lifted Spain to the pinnacle for the first time ever.

Iniesta also left Barcelona last month as one of the most decorated Spaniards at club level. He did so for 16 masterful, trophy-filled seasons. He never won a Ballon d’Or, always overshadowed by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But he did win 32 major titles with Barca, and the love and respect of millions.

“Respect is more important than a Ballon d’Or,” Iniesta said at a tearful farewell news conference in April. “Everyone likes individual awards, but it doesn’t change who I am.”

He will always be associated first with the garnet and blue of Barca, whose academy he came through, and whose first team he helped craft. But he was one of few ever-presents as the national team rose to the top of the soccer world as well. He’ll retire as one of the most celebrated Spanish players ever.

Andres Iniesta and Spain lost a penalty shootout to Russia in the 2018 World Cup round of 16. (Reuters)

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.