Andres Iniesta dramatically fired Spain to World Cup glory for the first time in their history with the only goal of the game deep into extra-time in a 1-0 win over Netherlands at Soccer City.
With the match goalless after 90 minutes an additional period was needed to separate the two sides, with Barcelona midfielder Iniesta delivering the telling blow in the 116th minute to send spark of scenes of wild celebration in Johannesburg and back in Spain.The match, played in front of 85,000 and watched by an estimated 700 million more on television around the world largely failed to live up to its billing and was littered by 12 yellow cards and one red, John Heitinga receiving his marching orders for the Dutch late on.
What a man, what a moment! Andres Iniesta celebrates his winning goal with an exuberant display of emotion. You can't book a man for taking his shirt off in this fashion, can you?
It was surprising that the Oranje managed to keep a full complement for so long, so physical was their style of play on the night. English referee Howard Webb endured a difficult evening as the Dutch took their tally of yellow cards to 23 for the tournament. Only Argentina in 1990 have picked up as many.
But ultimately Spain's victory - their fourth successive 1-0 win of the tournament - was deserved, and the triumph made them just the third country alongside West Germany and France to hold the World and European title at the same time.
With both sides having been hailed for playing the game as it should be played throughout the tournament, and considering the two teams were at full strength for the final, even the least optimistic neutral observer might have expected an exciting and entertaining game.Unfortunately the first half was anything but, with the encounter descending into a niggly, attritional affair, littered with fouls and lacking real moments of class.
Referee Webb had his hands full from the outset and the Rotherham official was forced to brandish five of the yellow cards with not even half an hour on the clock.
The fifth of those offenders, Nigel de Jong, could easily have been dismissed for a vicious-looking chest-high karate kick on Xabi Alonso and the Manchester City midfielder could count himself mighty lucky to have remained on the pitch. As for goalscoring chances, there were not many during the opening period. Spain threatened sporadically but failed to build on their early promise, while Netherlands seemed more concerned about neutralising their opponents' attacking threat rather than getting forward themselves.
Nah..!! One more..!!
Sergio Ramos nearly gave Vicente del Bosque's side the lead when he planted a fifth minute diving header, and the Real Madrid right-back went close again soon after when he tricked his way past Dirk Kuyt only to lash across the face of goal.In between those efforts, David Villa fired a back-post volley into the side netting but despite their slightly superior possession, Spain were unable to capitalise.
Somewhere at the bottom of this pile of bodies is a jubilant Iniesta! Hopefully Fernando Torres wasn't too.
The Dutch had to wait until after the half-hour mark for their first real opportunity and even then they had to rely on a near-howler from Iker Casillas. The Real Madrid keeper misjudged the bounce of the ball as it was played back by the Dutch following an injury break for Carles Puyol and nearly allowed it to bounce straight over his head and in.Wherever it came from, the chance marked an upturn for the Dutch and Arjen Robben, who had been quiet for the majority of the opening period, finally gave an indication of what he is capable of as the first half drew to a close, the Bayern Munich man cutting inside bringing Casillas into action with a low shot.
After the break the game finally sparked into life and it was Robben who should have broken the deadlock 17 minutes after the restart. He was put clean through on goal by Wesley Sneijder, and with all the time in the world at his disposal he waited for Casillas to make his move - but was still denied by the keeper's trailing leg.
He was nearly made to regret that golden opportunity just seven minutes later but Villa was denied by a last-ditch block by Heitinga, whose error after great approach play from Jesus Navas had led to the chance in the first place.
Ramos then wasted another chance to put Spain into the lead, conspiring to head over the bar even though he was completely unmarked at a corner.Going into extra-time, tired limbs began to show and with the game opening up, gilt-edged chances to settle the game fell at both ends.The introduction of Cesc Fabregas as a substitute gave Spain a lift, and the Arsenal midfielder was involved in a penalty shout before he was played in on goal by Iniesta.
But yet again, a finishing touch was absent, and Stekelenburg was able to make the save.With the spectre of penalties looming, both teams went for the opposition's jugular but Joris Mathijsen headed over the bar at one end before Navas fired into the side netting at the other.Heitinga received his marching orders in the 109th minute for a second bookable offence, and with just 10 men for the final 10 minutes, the Dutch faced a losing battle to keep Spain at bay.So it proved, with Fabregas playing the telling pass through to Iniesta who finished superbly with just four minutes remaining to bring down the curtain on the tournament in South Africa in the most dramatic fashion.
And thanks once again to Paul the Sotong Kurita!! Kah3