World Cup Final 2010: Holland 0- Spain 1 (AET)
Andres Iniesta struck a dramatic winner late in extra-time as Spain won the World Cup for the first time but condemned the Netherlands to their third final defeat.
Iniesta drilled his left-foot strike across goal – but the Netherlands were incensed after referee Howard Webb had failed to award their side a corner moments earlier after a free-kick took a sizeable deflection off Cesc Fabregas.
However, Euro 2008 champions Spain, who conceded just twice during the tournament, deserved their victory after gradually taking a grip on a tense and at times bad-tempered contest that saw 14 yellow cards and John Heitinga sent from the field late on after picking up a second booking.
The Dutch, who lost in the 1974 and 1978 finals, were bidding to become the first side since Brazil in 1970 to go through qualifying and the World Cup unbeaten.
And they had a glorious chance to take the lead in the second half but Arjen Robben, comfortably his team’s most potent attacking weapon, could find no way past Spain captain Iker Casillas, who slumped to the floor and cried tears of joy after the final whistle.
Sergio Ramos was equally culpable of a glaring miss for Spain when he headed over and substitute Fabregas, as with Robben before him, also failed to convert a one-on-one chance.
But it was from a through ball by the influential Fabregas that Iniesta struck as Spain became the first team to win a World Cup after losing their opening game of the tournament.
Spain also become the team to win to World Cup having scored the fewest number of goals, having found the net eight times in their seven matches.
The dramatic finale to Sunday’s match at Soccer City was in stark contrast to a hugely underwhelming opening 45 minutes, which was a brutal disappointment after the spectacular opening ceremony and moving appearance by Nelson Mandela that had preceded it.
Spain dominated possession in the opening minutes and looked to have the measure of an uncertain Dutch backline. Ramos almost put them ahead after just four minutes but his thunderous header was brilliantly saved by Maarten Stekelenburg.
The Netherlands could not get a grip on the game but were helped by a spate of yellow cards from referee Webb that disturbed the rhythm of the match.
Webb booked five players in the opening 28 minutes but, in fairness to the Englishman, several crude challenges left him with little option.
Dutch enforcer Mark van Bommel was booked after going through the back of Iniesta, while Nigel de Jong was lucky to escape red after planting his foot in the chest of Xabi Alonso.
Robben did force a decent save from Iker Casillas with a low left-foot strike after cutting inside during stoppage time.
But the match had degenerated to the extent that Alonso opted to shoot with a free-kick on the wrong side of 40 yards instead of a seeking out a team-mate.
Spain defender Joan Capdevila wasted a good chance shortly after the restart, failing to make contact with a Carles Puyol flick-on.
The bookings continued after the break and the contest occasionally threatened to boil over as the tension appeared to affect the players.
But there were also a few moments of real quality, none more so than a sumptuous through ball from the largely anonymous Wesley Sneijder that played Robben clean through on goal.
Robben delayed his shot but, equally, Casillas stood his ground as long as possible and brilliantly saved with his legs.
It was a head-in-hands moment for Robben, but one quickly followed for Spain when a completely unmarked Ramos headed a corner over the crossbar.
Robben’s pace troubled the Spanish defence throughout and another burst from the Bayern Munich man unsettled Puyol, who appeared to impinge his opponent. Robben, just outside the penalty area, chose to stay on his feet and Casillas again denied him.
Having said that, Spain had moved into the ascendancy as the match wore on, with Xavi increasingly influential.
Fabregas had replaced Alonso and quickly made an impression by collecting a superb Iniesta pass, but the Arsenal man could find no way beyond Stekelenberg.
The complement was returned shortly afterwards but Iniesta opted not to strike from 18 yards and was eventually dispossessed by the excellent Gregory van der Wiel.
Joris Mathijsen headed over for the Netherlands in what was their only good chance of extra-time before Iniesta struck his late and decisive blow.BBC Sport Â Â Stay with Sierra Express Media, for your trusted place in news!
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