(FIFA) — Champions of Europe and now champions of the world, Spain captured football’s Holy Grail for the first time with a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands thanks to Andres Iniesta’s 116th-minute strike at Soccer City.
The solitary goal came with penalties looming as substitute Cesc Fabregas played in Iniesta and the little midfielder drove emphatically across Maarten Stekelenburg and into the far corner. With this victory – their fourth successive single-goal win in South Africa – Spain became the eighth name on the FIFA World Cup™ Trophy and also the first European team to have triumphed on a different continent. For the Netherlands, who lost defender John Heitinga to a red card in extra time, there is only the heartache of another tale of what might have been after they completed a hat-trick of Final losses.
This was a match preceded by much talk of two like-minded footballing cultures, of the influence of Dutchmen like Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels, of ‘tiki taka’ and Total Football. In many ways, as the first 116 minutes showed, it was also a case of the irresistible force versus the immovable object. The Dutch had won 14 straight games to get to the Final, in qualifying and the tournament proper, and Spain 15 out of 16, their only slip the defeat by Switzerland in their first game here in South Africa.
It was the Spanish found their stride first, living up to their pre-game billing as favourites. Vicente del Bosque’s side dominated possession and created the early chances. With the Dutch penned inside their half, goalkeeper Stekelenburg had to make a save after five minutes, diving low to stop a Sergio Ramos header from Xavi’s free-kick from the right. Gerard Pique looked poised to follow up only to be denied by a combination of Joris Mathijsen and Dirk Kuyt.