Last-Gasp Spain Snatch Trophy
July 11, 2010
Spain have been crowned 2010 FIFA World Cup champions after a hard-fought extra-time victory over the 10-men of Netherlands at Soccer City on Sunday night.
Andres Iniesta scored the all-important goal two minutes from the end of extra-time after Netherlands had been reduced to 10-men following the sending off of Johnny Heitinga with 10 minutes remaining, and in truth they were lucky to finish the match with that number of players after receiving nine yellow cards in an overly physical performance.
The first half was disappointing to say the least, as Netherlands came out to stifle the Spanish game and succeeded, though they may well have been fortunate not to lose a man in the process.
English referee Howard Webb dealt out five yellow cards in the first half, but any of Mark van Bommel, Nigel de Jong or Wesley Sneijder might have received their marching orders as well.
Maarten Stekelenburg was forced into an excellent save early on when Sergio Ramos turned Xavi's free-kick goalwards.
Spain were applying all the early pressure and after Heitinga had cleared from within the six yard box, David Villa hit the side-netting with a volley from the resultant corner.
Wesley Sneijder tested Iker Casillas from 35-yards with a free-kick, but the Spanish stopper was up to the challenge, while Netherlands should have forced a save from Casillas when Joris Mathijsen failed to connect with the ball 10-yards out and not a Spanish defender in sight.
Xabi Alonso fired a 40-yard free-kick wide of goal two minutes before the break, while Arjen Robben forced a low save from Casillas in injury-time. Joan Capdevila had the first chance of the second half, failing to convert Carles Puyol's flick-on from the corner.
The Dutch physicality continued in the second half as skipper Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Johnny Heitinga received quick-fire yellow cards.
It should have been 1-0 on 62 minutes as Sneijder fed Robben and the Bayern Munich man raced clear. He hesitated with the shot however, and Casillas made an excellent on-on-one save with his right foot just denying the Dutch winger.
David Villa, who had been quiet in the game to date, had an excellent chance at the other end as Jesus Navas' low cross found its way through to him at the back post, but his shot was brilliantly blocked by Heitinga as he seemed certain to score. Villa hit a 25-yard free-kick well wide of the mark, and then followed suit with a volley at the back post that was never troubling Stekelenburg.
Spain should have been ahead when Xavi's corner was met by an unmarked Sergio Ramos, who somehow contrived to put his header over the bar, when hitting the target was the minimum requirement.
Robben had another guilt-edged chance with six minutes remaining as he outstripped Puyol in defence, but could not round Casillas, who gathered at his feet just as he tried to pull the trigger.
Spain were convinced they should have had a penalty in the opening few minutes of extra-time, but replays suggested Heitinga touched the ball and not the man just as Xavi was about to shoot.
Cesc Fabregas had a golden chance to win it for Spain when he was through one-on-one with Stekelenburg, but the big keeper made the block, while at the other end Mathijsen had a free header at the back post which he somehow put over the bar.
Iniesta was the latest player to find himself in an excellent scoring position, but he dallied on the ball yet again and the chance was lost.
Navas saw his goal-bound effort deflect into the side-netting off Van Bronckhorst as the game opened up in extra-time.
Heitinga received his marching orders for a foul on Iniesta to reduce Netherlands to 10-men with 11 minutes remaining as the Spanish pressure built.
But the winner came from the brilliant Iniesta, though not without controversy.
Netherlands should have had a corner after Sneijder's free-kick took a massive deflection off the wall, but Spain went up the other end and scored.
Torres' floated ball finds Fabregas, who in turn plays in an unmarked Iniesta at the back post and he beats Stekelenburg from six-yards to send the Spanish wild.