World domination for Spain
Andres Iniesta's strike with four minutes left of extra-time fired Spain to World Cup glory for the first time as they vanquished Holland 1-0.
By James Dall
Last Updated: 12/07/10 9:57am
Andres Iniesta's strike with four minutes left of extra-time fired Spain to World Cup glory for the first time in their history as they vanquished Holland in a fractious final at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium.
In an encounter riddled with persistent fouling, in particular from the Dutch, who had John Heitinga dismissed late on, Spain emerged as victors courtesy of Iniesta's effort that came in the 116th minute of the tie.
The success completes a marvellous two years for Spain, who were crowned European champions in 2008, as Holland's 25-match unbeaten run came to an end in South Africa.
As expected, Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque again overlooked the rusty Fernando Torres with the 22-year-old Pedro keeping his place in the starting XI that defeated Germany. For Holland, Gregory van der Wiel and Nigel de Jong returned from suspension to replace Khalid Boulahrouz and Demy De Zeeuw.
Former South Africa president Nelson Mandela was present to observe arguably the sporting world's most gargantuan event, the kick-off signalled by the whistle of English referee Howard Webb, who would play an active role in the first period.
Robin van Persie's foul on Sergio Busquets in the first minute was indicative of Holland's beginning to the encounter as they went about pressing their opponents robustly. But Spain were unruffled and the on-fire David Villa threatened to break clear on three minutes only to be flagged offside.
And it took the reigning European champions just five minutes to draw a fine stop from goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who was forced to get down to his right and parry clear following a powerful header from Sergio Ramos after Xavi had whipped in a free-kick from out wide. Gerard Pique was unable to turn home the rebound.
After yet more eager running from Villa, who was again called offside, a rare mistake in possession from the Spanish gifted Holland the ball. Busquets was sloppy as he tried to flick on a pass, and Dirk Kuyt looked to punish the holding midfielder. But the Liverpool forward's effort from distance was speculative and easy for Iker Casillas.
Spain continued to be very much on the front foot during the opening exchanges, with Holland seemingly dazed by the tiki-taka hypnosis. Ramos breezed past a heavy-footed Kuyt in the area before seeing his lash deflected out for a corner by the hopeful boot of Heitinga. Then, Villa thumped into the side-netting following a wicked cross by Xabi Alonso.
Referee Webb produced his first yellow card of the match on 15 minutes, cautioning Van Persie for a chop on Joan Capdevila. A minute later, Webb again brandished a booking, this time for Carles Puyol for a scythe from behind on so far quiet Arjen Robben.
Wesley Sneijder's stinging free-kick which whistled down the throat of Casillas sparked respite for the Dutch, as moments later Robben won his team's first corner. But in the 22nd minute, the fouling resumed. First, the sometimes invisible Mark van Bommel was rightly carded for a horrid foul on Iniesta before Ramos joined him in Webb's notepad.
Cue another brutish incident in the 28th minute, with De Jong the culprit. The Manchester City enforcer dangled a high boot and his studs slammed into the chest of Alonso. A yellow was the fortunate outcome with Alonso lucky to escape sustaining a broken rib.
Quite the astonishing scare for Spain occurred on 34 minutes. As Holland sportingly pumped possession back goalwards to Casillas, the shot-stopper misjudged the ball's bounce as it skipped off the turf and threatened to drop in, with Casillas forced to stretch and flick out for a corner before swallowing to push his heart back from his throat to where it belongs.
Robben began to impose himself on the encounter as his dribbling caused problems. His running partly led to a corner which was played short and then knocked square. Joris Mathijsen swiped wildly to spin the ball hopelessly wide. Then, up the other end, Pedro darted forwards and skimmed off target with his left boot.
After Van Bommel continued to play devil's advocate as he clattered into Xavi, a fractured first 45 minutes drew to a close, but not before a typical left-footer from Robben called Casillas into action as the keeper pushed away from danger.
The second half started brightly. After Robben almost found Van Persie, Spain found their rhythm which earned them a corner. In it came and semi-final goalscorer Puyol glanced a header across goal, Capdevila looked to turn the ball home but could not adjust in time.
Robben let fire with another trademark cut-in from the right channel but it was routine for Casillas. The game then began to open up, but the bookings also continued to rain down. Dutch skipper Giovanni Van Bronckhorst was carded for blocking off an opponent before Heitinga was given a yellow for catching Villa.
Del Bosque was the first of the two managers to make a substitution. The Spain head coach opted to bring on Jesus Navas for Pedro in the 60th minute. But it was the Dutch who were next to threaten as Van Persie's header floated off target following a Kuyt cross.
Then came the chance of the final thus far. Sneijder wonderfully threaded through Robben, who burst in on the exposed Casillas. Robben waited and waited for Casillas to commit before striking, only to see his effort clip off the dangling leg of the keeper, who deserves many plaudits for the stop.
Navas proved a decent introduction by Del Bosque as his liveliness on the right wing caused issues for Holland. Indeed, after Capdevila received the eighth yellow card of the game, in the 70th minute Navas drilled across goal. The ball was only half-cleared, as Villa pounced from close range, but Heitinga made the most vital of blocks to deny the striker.
Holland boss Van Marwijk acted with 19 minutes remaining, throwing on his own pacey wideman in Elijero Elia for Kuyt. But Spain had their tails up. A glorious passing move involving Xavi and Villa, the latter's shot charged down by Van der Wiel. Then came Spain's best chance.
On 77 minutes a curling corner found a completely unmarked Ramos. Yet from just seven yards out the Real Madrid defender planted his header over the bar to mark an astonishing miss. Meanwhile, the bitty nature of the clash failed to die down as an altercation between the hot-headed Van Bommel and Iniesta almost boiled over.
As the tension rose, Sneijder made a crucial intervention when he slid to snatch the ball away from Iniesta. Moments later, Robben's pace through the middle again caused problems with Puyol laboured. But, despite having the opportunity to go down under a Puyol challenge, Robben eventually lost possession as Casillas gathered. Robben was subsequently booked for protesting.
With four minutes remaining, Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas entered the fray in place of Alonso. The alteration, however, failed to prevent the fixture reaching extra-time, with Robben and Ramos both left to reflect on what might have been following their respective clear-cut opportunities.
Three minutes into the first period of extra-time, Spain had appeals for a penalty rightly turned down by Webb, who judged that Xavi kicked into Heitinga when in the area. Two minutes after said claims, Fabregas was sent clean through following a super Iniesta pass, but his stab at goal was well saved by the foot of Stekelenburg.
Then it was Holland's chance to come close. Casillas was left in no man's land as Mathijsen rose, but the defender's header flashed over the bar despite the goal gaping. And twice in the space of two minutes, Van Bronckhorst was Holland's hero as he shut out Iniesta then deflected Navas' strike wide.
A driving run and strike past the post from Fabregas then followed before Van Bronckhorst, making his last international appearance, was replaced by Edson Braafheid to mark the end of the first extra-time period. Spain's final change was to send on Torres for the five-goal Villa.
In the 19th minute of extra-time, Holland were reduced to 10 men after Heitinga received a second booking for pulling on Iniesta's shoulder. And with four minutes remaining, Spain scored the goal that won them the 2010 World Cup.Fabregas slipped a pass to his right, and waiting was Iniesta. The Barcelona schemer took one touch before planting the ball past Stekelenburg with aplomb, sparking delirium from the Spanish players as they completed their mission for world domination.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||4|
|8||Shots off Target||13|