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Spain crowned football world champions

Andres Iniesta celebrates his tournament-winning goal Keystone

Spain have beaten the Netherlands 1-0 in a disappointing and foul-filled World Cup final in South Africa.

This content was published on July 11, 2010 - 23:33

A goal from Andres Iniesta in the 116th minute ended a match of missed chances at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.

The result – predicted by Paul the psychic octopus (see link), who finished the tournament with a 100 per cent record – means Spain are the third team, after Germany and France, to hold the world and European titles at the same time.

Both countries were playing for their first World Cup title. The Dutch had twice lost in the final, in 1974 and 1978, while Spain were playing in the title match for the first time.

Riotous celebrations spread across Spain at the final whistle, with an estimated 300,000 people forming a sea of red and yellow in Madrid's downtown Paseo de Recoletos boulevard on Sunday to watch the match on giant television screens.

Fireworks lit up the city sky as people herded out onto the streets to celebrate. Television shots showed exuberant partying in jammed town squares across the country, from Zaragoza in the northeast to Seville in the southwest.

Fans in the Soccer City stadium had earlier been delighted by the appearance of Nelson Mandela during the pre-match closing ceremony.

The anti-apartheid icon waved to the crowd as South Africa – and Colombian singer Shakira – began saying farewell to the 2010 World Cup in emotional and pulsating fashion.

Dutch and Spanish fans had led a carnival atmosphere before the match, embracing police officers outside the stadium and posing for photographs while blowing vuvuzelas, the horn whose sound has become synonymous with the 2010 tournament.

Missed chances

As for the football, Spain's delicate touch paid off as it overcame Dutch brute force and indiscipline.

Spain's creative intentions were stifled by strong resistance and tough challenges. English referee Howard Webb handed out eight yellow and one red card to Dutch players.

Nigel de Jong's flying karate kick to the chest of Xabi Alonso in the 28th minute best exemplified the difference in styles as the Dutch looked to grind down the Spanish and earn a victory. De Jong saw yellow but should have been sent off.

But what missed chances! Pedro Rodriguez, who was starting in place of Fernando Torres for the second straight match, ran through the middle in the 38th minute, but his shot went wide to the right. Alonso then squirted a free kick wide.

In the 62nd minute, Arjen Robben picked up a perfect pass from Wesley Sneijder and had only Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas to beat, but he failed to lift the ball over Casillas’s feet.

Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg then knocked David Villa's close-range finish over the bar before Spain defender Sergio Ramos headed over the bar while unmarked.

Goal!

Spain substitute Cesc Fabregas had the best chance in the 95th minute, but Stekelenburg made a one-on-one save.

One minute later, Dutch centre back Joris Mathijsen sent a header over the bar from Sneijder's corner, squandering a glorious opportunity.

Spain substitute Jesus Navas then had a shot deflected wide in the 101st.

As the Dutch legs tired and Iniesta was given more room to dart forward, it was John Heitinga who tugged the Barcelona playmaker down to be only the fifth player sent off in a World Cup final.

And then – finally – a goal. With four minutes to go before a penalty shootout, Iniesta collected a sliding pass into the area from Fabregas and smashed the ball across Stekelenburg and in at the far post.

Surprises and drama

Sunday’s match was a disappointing end to a tournament that, from a footballing point of view, can’t be considered a classic but warmed up after a slow start and provided several highly enjoyable games.

Things don’t bode well for a tournament when its star is an octopus, but Germany’s three four-goal demolitions – of England, Argentina and Australia – not to mention their match for third place against Uruguay on Saturday, were solid entertainment.

In addition there were several surprises: the Dutch beating Brazil, New Zealand drawing with Italy, anything involving the French squad...

And let’s not forget Switzerland’s extraordinary victory over Spain in their opening match.

For drama, not much can beat the end of the Ghana-Uruguay match, when the former missed a penalty in the final minute of extra time (following a deliberate handball and red card) and the latter won the subsequent penalty shootout.

Swiss disappointment

There were however several irritations: the Jabulani ball that flew into the stands at virtually every free kick; vuvuzelas; several refereeing errors and Fifa’s ridiculous opposition to video technology.

It was a tournament to forget for entire teams – notably England, Italy and France – and the game’s millionaire stars: Messi, Ronaldo, Torres and Rooney among others.

That said, a few players saw their stock rise. Villa, Sneijder, Uruguay’s Diego Forlan and Germany’s Thomas Müller ended up sharing the Golden Boot, all having scored five goals. The tournament’s revelation however was 20-year-old Müller.

But subjective disappointment of the 2010 World Cup must surely go to Switzerland, who, having got the best possible start by defeating Spain, failed to beat Chile or Honduras and didn’t advance to the second round.

Although the Swiss can say they beat the world champions, they have some serious work to do if they want to travel to Brazil in 2014.

Thomas Stephens, swissinfo.ch

Team sheets

Spain: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Joan Capdevila, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Cesc Fabregas, 87), Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodriguez (Jesus Navas, 60), David Villa (Fernando Torres, 106).

Netherlands: Maarten Stekelenburg, Gregory van der Wiel, John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Edson Braafheid, 105), Mark van Bommel, Nigel de Jong (Rafael van der Vaart, 99), Dirk Kuyt (Eljero Elia, 71), Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie.

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