Spain makes history with Cup win
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
Spanish players celebrate with the World Cup trophy after their 2010 World Cup victory against the Netherlands on July 11, 2010. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)
JOHANNESBURG -- Spain will no longer have to live with questions about their football pedigree. It is now without question the top football nation in the world.
Spain defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time Sunday to win its first World Cup. It completed the difficult double after winning the European championship in 2008.
Andres Iniesta scored the winner in the 116th minute when he took a pass from Cesc Fabregas and fired the ball across the face of the net into the corner.
Like many things about this game, there was controversy on the goal. On the first pass attempt to Iniesta, he was offside but the ball never reached him. It came back to Fabregas who found Iniesta in an onside position with his second pass.
"It's something incredible, I just made a small contribution to the team," Iniesta said. "They made it a very tough and rough match but I think Spain deserved to win."
As the game drew to an end, tears flowed freely from both sides. Spanish keeper Iker Casillas held his gloved hands to his face. Dutch forward Wesley Sneijder could hardly stand he was so distraught. In what seemed like only seconds after the game, Spain's Carles Puyol mugged for the camera holding out his shirt that already had a star on it, symbolizing the number of World Cups a team has won.
The Spanish victory has put to rest the image of a Spanish side that couldn't win the big tournament. Spain won this under the most difficult of circumstances.
The Dutch will now have to live with that reputation. Sunday's final was the third time the Dutch have appeared in the World Cup final and it was their third loss.
The Dutch promised to win ugly if they had to. Instead they lost ugly and in turn, the game was about as ugly a final as anyone can remember.
Spain contributed their part to a record 14 yellow cards and one red, but the Dutch were determined not to allow Spain a smooth road.
The red went to Dutch defender John Heitinga after he picked up his second yellow card late in extra time.
"We are angry because we were so close," said Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt. "The referee was slightly more for them than for us. That ultimately cost us the cup."
The Netherlands knew it would have to prevent Spain from possessing the ball and that's what it tried to do from the start. It was a nasty, tough tackling game that did not provide a great deal of beauty.
English referee Howard Webb was the focus of attention as he provided a smorgasbord of yellow cards. His most controversial decision came when he refused to hand a card to Puyol when he held back Arjen Robben who was breaking in alone on Iker Casillas.
Both teams had enough decent chances to score long before the winner eventually went into the net. Fabregas, Iniesta, David Villa, Sergio Ramos and Robben had great chances to break the deadlock.
Spain managed to keep their composure but the Dutch lost it several times during the heated contest. Robben especially felt he was hard done by and spent a great deal of time complaining to Webb.
Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk said his team didn't play well enough to win. He repeated at least three times in his press conference that the best team won.
"It's sad to lose the final this way," he said. "With a red card. I think the best team won but there should have been a second yellow card on Puyol. But it's very bitter, very sad. But that is sport. The best team won."
Van Marwijk faced a lot of questions about the style of play his team employed including one where his team was accused of trying to “kick Spain out of the tournament.”
"It is not our style to commit horrible fouls in the World Cup final," he said. "Look at the rest of the tournament. Both sides committed terrible fouls. I don't think (the referee) controlled it very well. But like I said, the best team won."
Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque played down the physical aspect of the game.
"Our opponents made it very difficult for us. But in the end I think we deserved to win," he said. "I know people back home our celebrating. I think a victory like this is bigger than sport and should be celebrated by all Spanish people."
Celebrate they will and not just their first World Cup win. They will also celebrate the death of the reputation they had as failures.