Day 31 - WORLD CONQUERORS
Spain fulfills its destiny, taking home the country’s first-ever World Cup Championship.
July 11, 2010
by Dan Krier
Spain 1 - Netherlands 0
And so it happened. With an extremely late goal by midfielder Andres Iniesta in extra time, Spain won the 2010 FIFA World Cup, victorious for the fourth straight match by a result of 1-0.
By anyone’s account, it was a substandard affair Sunday night in Johannesburg, with each team taking dives on fouls in order to elicit yellow cards, which came in hordes as both sides were handed a record number of 13, the previous high being 6. And while it could be said that head referee Howard Webb was too quick to book players, a lot of the challenges were overexuberant and came across as dangerous sloppy play.
For the Netherlands, this day will forever go down as a game of missed opportunities. Twice during the second half - in the 62nd and 83rd minutes - Holland’s Arjen Robben was denied by the diving legs of Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas on clear-path 1-on-1 breakaways. Robben and the rest of the Netherlands will be replaying those moments in nightmares for the remainder of their lives.
Spain, as well, had multiple chances to score, though nothing as wide open as the runs made by Holland’s Robben. In the 70th minute, World Cup leading-scorer David Villa was given a sliver of space to shoot on a mishandled cross through the Dutch box, but he couldn’t solve the tight angle off the left side of the goal, keeper Maarten Stekelenburg making one of several great saves during the match.
Then in the 77th minute, Sergio Ramos was denied glory when he missed a wide-open header on a corner kick that caromed off his forehead before sailing high over the bar. The game stayed tied 0-0 until the 90th-minute whistle, forcing thirty minutes of extra time.
In the overtime period, things went back & forth, with the best chance to score by Spain’s Cesc Fabregas thwarted by the leg of Stekelenburg in the 95th minute to preserve the shutout. But shortly thereafter, things took a major turn for the worse for the Netherlands, because another rough tackle by Holland’s John Heitinga yielded his second yellow card for pulling Spain’s Iniesta down from behind, which translated to a RED CARD and a send-off, putting Spain in the position of having a one-man advantage.
Finally, then, in the 116th minute, the moment came.
On the goal, substitute forward Fernando Torres took the ball on a pass up the left side, where he crossed it to the front of the box toward another reserve, teammate Fabregas, who then slid the ball right, where Andres Iniesta controlled the bouncer just enough to fire a right-foot volley into the net off the bottom of Stekelenburg’s right hand, giving Spain the lead 1-0 in the nick of time.
The goal marked the end of the road for Holland, who couldn’t create a last-gasp chance, falling in what is now their third World Cup Final defeat. Utter joy for Spain, who hoist the cup for the first time in history, this team taking its spot in the books as one of the best ever, having won the 2008 UEFA Euro Crown along with the 2010 World Cup.
Though they only won each of their knockout games by the score of 1-0, Spain is undoubtedly the best team in the entire world. Congratulations.