Sunday, July 11, 2010

Iniesta gives Spain first World Cup title, beats Dutch


The European champions have finally won their first world title.

Andres Iniesta scored in the 116th minute as Spain defeated the 10-man Netherlands 1-0 in extra time in the World Cup final in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday.

Spain, a first-time finalist,claimed its first World Cup, ending the Netherlands’ 25-game unbeaten streak. Its patient attack yielded just eight goals in the entire tournament, the lowest ever for a champion, as Spain became the first nation to ever lose its first game and come back to win the title.

With about five minutes to play in extra time, Iniesta took a ball in the penalty area from substitute Cesc Fabregas and finished across Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

The match was anything but beautiful – the 14 cards English referee Howard Webb handed out more than doubled the previous record for a final – but both goalkeepers provided sublime moments to force extra time and set the stage for Iniesta.

La Roja’s Iker Casillas dove to stop two Arjen Robben second-half breakaways, while Stekelenburg stonewalled Sergio Ramos in the fifth minute and stopped Fabregas in the 95th minute.

Iniesta alone had two earlier chances to score, but hesitated and was stopped by Stekelenburg after being alone in the penalty area in the 81st minute and again in the 99th.

Both sides missed out on some earlier seemingly easy scoring opportunities. The Oranje’s Joris Mathijsen almost completely whiffed on a corner in the 37th minute, and Spain’s Joan Capdevila returned the favor in the 48th minute, failing to capitalize on an open net.

Spanish Golden Boot contender David Villa blasted a tough-angle shot from inside the 6-yard box well high in the 69th minute, then hit a 25-yard free kick over five minutes later.

Ramos headed a corner over the bar in the 77th minute, Jesus Navas’ shot was deflected off the side net by Netherlands defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst in the 101st minute and a slipping Fabregas missed wide right in the 104th minute.

Mathijsen headed a corner over the bar, missing a wide-open net, 13 minutes before teammate John Heitinga received his second yellow card and was sent off.

Xavi missed the 110th-minute free kick, but the Spaniards’ one-man advantage soon paid off with Iniesta’s goal six minutes later.

NOTES: The Dutch hadn’t lost since falling 2-1 to Australia on Sept. 6, 2008. … This was the first World Cup held outside Europe won by a European nation. … Spain lost its opener to Switzerland, 1-0, but has lost just two of its last 56 matches. … The last World Cup to reach extra time scoreless was in 1994, when Brazil beat Italy on penalty kicks in Pasadena, Calif. … Spain has won five straight games by one goal. … Dutch captain van Bronckhorst played in his final professional game.

Photo above: Spain's Andres Iniesta celebrates his World Cup-winning goal Sunday. (Luca Bruno/AP)

Video credit – ESPN on ABC