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Extra-Time Delight Sees Spain Seal Maiden Win

Spain 1-0 Holland
Iniesta 116’

Attendance – 84, 490

Howard Webb leads out the two teams

An Andres Iniesta strike deep into the second period of extra-time sealed a historic World Cup triumph for Spain over a boisterous Holland side. In a disappointing stop-start final, the defining moment sparked mass celebrations from the Spanish, as they finally exploded on the world stage.

In what was amazingly, the first meeting between the two teams, it was Spain who came out on top, and deservedly so. The Dutch employed a tight, aggressive approach and persistently obstructed their opponents. English referee Howard Webb was kept rather busier than he had hoped, dishing out 14 cards in total, including a red for Dutch defender Johnny Heitinga just minutes before Iniesta’s winner.

Clear-cut chances were at a premium, but it was Arjen Robben of Holland that saw the best two opportunities fall his way. On both occasions he was denied by the impressive Iker Casillas when clear through on goal, with the first save particularly outstanding. Spain created more half-chances than the Dutch, but also saw Sergio Ramos and Cesc Fabregas waste two glorious opportunities to open the scoring.

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque elected to stick with the same starting line-up that had served him so well against Germany in the semi-final, with Pedro Rodriguez retaining his place in the forward line ahead of Fernando Torres. Dutch boss Bert Van Marwijk was able to revert back to a full-strength side for the final, with Gregory Van Der Wiel and Nigel De Jong returning from suspension in the place of Khalid Boulahrouz and Demy De Zeeuw. Captain Giovanni Van Bronckhorst led his side out in the final competitive match of his career, as he prepares to hang his boots up after the final.

Everybody was delighted to see Nelson Mandela present before the final kicked-off, amid the speculation that he might not attend, the biggest cheer of the night greeted his appearance.


Nelson Mandela proudly salutes the crowd

It was Spain who dominated possession in the early stages and with only five minutes played, forced a good save out of Maarten Stekelenberg. Ramos met Xavi’s corner with a thunderous diving header, which Stekelenberg parried away.

The Dutch were struggling to keep hold of the ball for any great period, as Spain went close again through Ramos, as he breezed past Dirk Kuyt into the area, but saw his drilled effort cleared away by the covering Heitinga. Moments later, a quick, short corner found its way to Xabi Alonso, who delivered a delicious cross to the far post, where David Villa lurked to smash a volley wide from a tight angle.

The middle third of the first half was littered with poor tackles and ill-disciplined behaviour as Howard Webb was forced to take the limelight. Robin Van Persie was the first culprit, seeing yellow for a late challenge on Joan Capdevila, which set the tone for the rest of the match.

Carlos Puyol added his name to Webb’s notebook when catching Dutch winger, Arjen Robben. Unsurprisingly both Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong were cautioned soon after, the tough-tackling heart of the Holland midfield were both lucky to escape with only a yellow card. Van Bommel forcefully took down Iniesta with a clumsy tackle from behind and De Jong somehow construed to plant his studs into the chest of Alonso. Webb’s busy period also included taking Ramos’ name, as he fouled Kuyt, with the rhythm of the match completely destroyed at this point.


Nigel De Jong displays karate expertise on Xabi Alonso

Robben was the only threat coming from the Dutch up until this point, and it was his direct run that brought about an opportunity from a corner. He picked out Van Bommel on the edge of the box, who scuffed his attempted shot to the un-marked Joris Mathijsen, but the centre-half could only swipe uncontrollably at the pass as the ball span out for a goal-kick.

There was just time before half-time for Robben to cut in from the right and hit a left-footed drive, which Iker Casillas saved well down to his left to turn around the post.

The second half began brightly, with Puyol flicking a header on from a Spain corner, but Capdevila failed to adjust in time to make contact. The bookings continued to flow with a concerning regularity, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst and Johnny Heitinga the next to be reprimanded.

The best chance of the game arrived on 62 minutes, as Wesley Sneijder, a periphery figure until now, threaded a defence splitting pass through for Robben. Faced by Casillas, he waited and waited before shooting on goal, but the Spanish stopper did brilliantly to stay big and miraculously saved with an outstretched toe, as Robben looked on astonished at his failure to score.


Arjen Robben has a head-in-hands moment as he’s denied by Casillas

Del Bosque introduced wide-man, Jesus Navas in place of Pedro and the change almost reaped immediate rewards. Navas drilled in a cross from the right, across the face of the Dutch goal, their failure to clear invited Golden Boot chasing Villa to smash home the loose ball, but a superb last-ditch block from Heitinga thwarted Spain’s lethal finisher.


Johnny Heitinga brilliantly denies David Villa

77 minutes had elapsed, when a glorious opportunity arose for Spain to gain the advantage. A corner delivered from the left found a completely free Sergio Ramos, but he wastefully headed over the top from 7 yards out.

With the clock ticking towards the 90 minute-mark, it was Robben again threatening the Spanish defence with his pace. A flick-on from Robin Van Persie set Robben away through the middle, bursting past Puyol with ease. The defender appeared to lose his balance and obstruct the forward, but Robben stayed on his feet as he sensed the chance for redemption. However, he was to be denied by Casillas once more, as he gathered at the feet of Robben as he tried to touch the ball around him.

Cesc Fabregas was thrown on in place of Alonso in the 87th minute, and although his influence would later prove crucial, he couldn’t prevent the match entering extra-time.

Two minutes into extra-time, Spain had a penalty appeal rightly turned down, as Xavi kicked the boot of Heitinga when lining up a shot in the penalty area. Three minutes later Fabregas was racing through on goal, receiving a crafted pass from the sublime Iniesta, but he saw his low shot expertly saved by the leg of Stekelenberg.

Holland responded with a chance at the other end, as Mathijsen rose to nod over the bar when well placed to do better.

Spain were exerting the greater pressure and went close twice before the midway point of extra-time was signalled. Navas saw his shot deflected by Van Bronckhorst and flash marginally the wrong side of the post and Fabregas embarked on a buccaneering run, committing defenders in the process, before placing his shot a couple of yards wide.

Moments prior to changing ends the Dutch captain, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, in his final appearance for his nation, made way for Edson Braafheid to close the curtain on his illustrious football career.

In the 19th minute of extra-time Heitinga was shown a second yellow card for a pull on Iniesta and became the fifth man to be dismissed in a World Cup final. Referee Webb was left with little choice and in truth could have chosen to use the red card in his pocket much sooner.


Heitinga walks after being shown red

The sending-off galvanised the Spanish side and with just four minutes left, their dreams were fulfilled. Fabregas cleverly fed Iniesta after the Dutch had only half cleared a cross, and the pint-sized Barcelona man took one, typically astute touch before firing on the volley past the hapless Stekelenberg to seal Spain’s maiden World Cup triumph.


Iker Casillas holds aloft the World Cup


Spain – Casillas, Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila, Busquets, Alonso (Fabregas, 87), Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro (Navas, 61), Villa (Torres, 105)

Booked – Puyol, Ramos, Capdevila, Iniesta, Xavi

Holland – Stekelenberg, Van Der Weil, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst (Braafheid, 105), Van Bommel, De Jong (Van Der Vaart, 99), Sneijder, Kuyt (Elia, 71), Van Persie, Robben

Booked – Van Persie, Van Bommel, De Jong, Van Bronckhorst, Heitinga, Robben, Van Der Weil, Mathjisen

Sent-Off – Heitinga

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