Sunday’s World Cup final was bound to create history — one way or another. But this clash of two two like-minded footballing cultures looked more like foulball than football. The Dutch set a new record for yellow cards in a World Cup final (12, compared to the previous record of 6), with Heitinga getting sent off with his second yellow card for the evening in the 110th minute of the game. The night, however, belonged to Spain, which prevailed despite the hounding and hammering they received from the Dutchmen.
“I simply made a small contribution in a match that was very tough, very rough,” said Andres Iniesta, the Spanish hero who sent his team to World Cup glory. “All sorts of things were happening on the pitch.”
The match was rough and tumble; the Spanish weren’t able to play their free-flowing football; and despite the number of scoring chances, there was very little of the quality football that these two teams are known for. The sport’s showpiece event was hardly a showcase for the beautiful game, and that was the Netherlands’ doing. Refree Howard Webb showed the first yellow card of the evening to Van Persie in the 15th minute when he brought down Joan Capdevila. Spain’s Carles Puyol reacted to a foul on a Spanish player a minute later and was shown a yellow card of his own, but the spoilers were definately the Dutch.
Though the tactics slowed down La Roja, they still maintained the upper hand in terms of possession (60/40), and delivered where it mattered most — in the goalkeepers net! As Iniesta took off his shirt and ran to the sidelines to celeberate on one end of the field, on the other end Iker Casillas, standing inside his goal post, had tears streaming down his face. That goal ended nearly 80 years of angst for a nation that has produced so many great players but has not once lifted the World Cup trophy.
With this win Spain enters the history books not only because this is the first time the nation has won the World Cup, but also because no country has ever lost its opening match and gone on to win the final! Spain is also only the second country to have won the Euro Cup and gone on to win the World Cup two years later.