JOHANNESBURG - In the face of tough Dutch
opposition, Spain were unable to produce the eye-pleasing football that has been the hallmark of their rise to the pinnacle of the
game but kept their cool to take their first World Cup title
with yet another 1-0 win.
Those who hoped for an exhibition of fine movement and
intricate passing in the World Cup final will have been left
disappointed by a poor and largely scrappy game which was
decided by an Andres Iniesta goal four minutes from the end of
A tournament which had offered some glimpses of genius and
moments of magic, but not the level of excitement that many
would have desired, truly needed a final full of the best of the
Instead, however, spectators witnessed a stream of fouls, 47
in total, some rough, others purely disruptive and an
astonishing 13 yellow cards and one red.
Despite the pedigree of the teams there was little of the
quality football for which both countries have been noted for
Tiredness on both sides led to a more open extra-time with
chances for both teams, before Iniesta's strike but there was no
coming together of Spanish 'Tiki-Taka' possession football and
Some of the blame for the poor spectacle can be put on the
nerves that accompany such an occasion, particularly
understandable in the case of a Spain side playing in their
first World Cup decider and a Dutch team keen to avoid their
nation's third defeat in a final.
But the Dutch strategy, particularly in the first half, of
getting physical with the Spaniards also contributed to the
It was an approach which resulted in eight of the
Netherlands starting line-up receiving yellow cards from English
referee Howard Webb.
The tough tackling and fouls worked, however. They unsettled
Spain and stopped them getting the grip on possession that they
enjoy so much and which has been the foundation for the success
in the past three years.
The neutral may have been unimpressed but Netherlands coach
Bert van Marwijk had clearly learned the lesson from Germany's
defeat to the Spanish in the semi-final stage.
The Germans, hoping to play Spain on the counter-attack sat
back and allowed Xavi and company to play 'keep ball' in
midfield with the result that they had been unable to find their
own rhythm or any sort of way to threaten the Spanish defence.
The Dutch preferred a battle for control in midfield,
banking on the rugged Mark van Bommel and Nigel De Jong to
impose themselves and allow Arjen Robben on the right and Dirk
Kuyt on the left to exploit any space that emerged.
In the end it turned out to be defence-splitting passes
through the middle that opened up Spain the best in the second
half - both times Robben racing through but being foiled
firstly by the legs of Spain keeper Iker Casillas and then
failing to finish after he appeared to be pulled back by Carles
Spain were unable to get the tempo up to the beats per
minute that they need to be truly effective until the
introduction of substitute Jesus Navas on the hour in place of
David Villa and Sergio Ramos both had good chances in the
latter stages to win the game for Spain while at the other end
Robben's breakaway from Puyol could have settled it for the
Extra-time came and it seemed penalties would follow before
Iniesta, the player who had shown the most individual flair
throughout, struck the winner.
Spain deserve credit for keeping their cool in the face of
the Dutch aggression and showing the patience and faith in their
ability that has been present throughout this tournament with
their narrow 1-0 wins in all their knockout stage games against
Portugal, Paraguay and Germany.
A single goal again proved to be enough and despite the lack
of sparkle in the showcase game few, bar the Dutch left furious
with the referee, would begrudge the Spaniards their long
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