Monday, July 12, 2010

Spain crowned World Champions


6:30 PM GMT, July 11, 2010
Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa

Final score - after extra time

0 - 1

In a game when a record number of yellow cards were given and John Heitinga was sent off in extra-time, both sides missed great chances from Arjen Robben and Cesc Fabregas, but Andres Iniesta netted in the 116th minute to give European champions Spain their first World Cup title.

Iniesta struck with four minutes remaining to settle a tetchy encounter and crown Spain world champions, while Netherlands were left to rue Robben's missed opportunity to open the scoring in normal time.

Iniesta pounced on a pass from Cesc Fabregas before thumping the ball past Maarten Stekelenburg and the Barcelona star's moment of class means that Spain are world champions for the first time, and the first European side to win the World Cup outside of the continent.

Spain also emerged victorious at Euro 2008 - making them the third team to hold both titles after West Germany and France - and Del Bosque paid tribute to his team for achieving the remarkable feat.

The game will be noted for the flurry of cards - 14 in all - starting in the 14th minute when Howard Webb booked Robin van Persie.
Pretty soon combative midfield duo Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong joined him for challenges - a late lunge on Joan Capdevila and a kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso respectively - that could easily have ended their evening.
That Wesley Sneijder was not even cautioned for a similarly woeful attempt at stopping Pedro could only be put down to either Webb being unsighted or the Dutch playmaker diverting attention by claiming to be injured himself.
Spain were not complete innocents in all of this, but it was the European Champions who were feeling most aggrieved, which only intensified when Webb did not see a niggly second-half challenge from Van Bommel that sparked a reaction from Barcelona playmaker Iniesta.
It certainly made for unsightly viewing at times, but Vicente del Bosque's side did play some exquisite passing football at times, with Xavi and Iniesta helping Spain dominate possession. The best first-half chance fell to Sergio Ramos but his header from Xavi's cross was palmed away superbly by Maarten Stekelenburg.
Netherlands struggled to get into the game but in the second-half were handed a golden opportunity to take the lead; Spain skipper Iker Casillas making a quite brilliant save to deny Robben after the former Chelsea star had been set free by Sneijder.

Robben must have thought he had done everything right. Running at pace - past a stranded Carles Puyol - until he saw the whites of Casillas' eyes, he shaped to go one way, then placed his shot to the other corner. Casillas was committed in the other direction but stuck out a leg and turned the effort wide.

It was by some distance the best opportunity of the regulation 90 minutes, although Ramos had another decent opening himself heading umarked over the bar.
Robben threatened to sprint through again, only to be denied by Casillas, but losing possession did not come before Puyol had made a desperate grab for the Bayern Munich winger, who was convinced the Barcelona defender should have been sent off.
On as a substitute, with a point to prove after mustering the grand total of 93 minutes prior to tonight, Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas twice came close to breaking the deadlock in extra-time, when Xavi also had a penalty claim turned down.
John Heitinga was sent off for his second yellow card when he pulled back Iniesta, giving Spain the man advantage, yet the Dutch held firm and looked like taking the tie to penalties.
However, Spain were not to be denied. Fabregas slotted it through to Iniesta and after one touch to control it, his second was a crisp volley past Stekelenburg.
Del Bosque's side held on and the final whistle saw euphoric scenes as Spain's ecstatic players celebrated an inaugural World Cup triumph.

Scoring Summary

 AndrĂ©s Iniesta (116')

Man of the Match: Andres Iniesta.


  • Man of the Match: Andres Iniesta.Once again Iniesta and Barcelona team-mate Xavi were imperious in the centre of midfield, bossing possession and helping Spain play the same patient game that has characterised their triumphant campaign. Possessing vision, craft, and guile in abundance, Iniesta produced a number of fine flicks and back-heels, while his winning goal was taken with aplomb.

  • Netherlands verdict: After an unimpressive first period - in which four players were yellow carded - Bert van Marwijk's side came into the game more after the interval, trying to get the ball to Arjen Robben as much as possible. It almost worked to devastating effect on two occasions when Carles Puyol's pace was exposed, but Robben was twice thwarted by Iker Casillas. Were outclassed in extra-time and after losing their cool a third World Cup final defeat will be the bitterest pill to swallow.

  • Spain verdict: Completely dominated possession but had few clear-cut chances to show for it, with a free header from Sergio Ramos and a David Villa strike that was deflected over the best opportunities in normal time. Demonstrated some excellent touches in midfield, with plenty of classy interchanges and never showed frustration when they couldn't break through. Defensively, they looked shaky when Puyol was dealing with long balls but after letting the Oranje back into the game in the second half, Spain upped their tempo in extra-time. The introduction of Fabregas injected some much-needed freshness into Vicente del Bosque's side and the winning goal was just reward for the team that unquestionably played the better football.

  • Could do better: Robin van Persie. A terrible tournament for Van Persie was epitomised by an anonymous performance in the final. Nothing was working for the Arsenal frontman against Spain, and he never seemed to have the ball under control. An early booking meant he always looked reluctant to chase back and even when he was played through by Sneijder and called offside, he missed an open goal after the whistle had gone.

  • Stat attack: The 14 yellow cards handed out in the match by referee Howard Webb is the record for most ever in a World Cup Final.

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