Spain and the Netherlands fought for two back-breaking hours in the cold highveld winter night. The problem was, Spain played the game of soccer, while the Dutch played the game of kickboxing. To the delight of every true soccer lover in the world, it ended Spain 1, the Netherlands 0.
That the Dutch qualified for the World Cup final was more proof that a game played by cyborgs and drones can almost get you to the top. But once you get there, you actually need to score and play the game to win. The Dutch came to the game on Sunday night with a clear strategy of roughing up the Spaniards to the point where they lose concentration and make mistakes – that would then be taken advantage of to spur fast counter-attacks, mostly by Robben.
The Netherlands have probably recorded the all-time record for dirty play in the final of any world-class competition after picking up nine yellow cards and one red card. The Dutch holding midfielders van Bommel and de Jong must rank as the dirtiest players seen in a long time. The world probably hasn’t seen such brazen disregard for everything on which the most beautiful game is built since the Italian fullback Gentille annihilated Maradonna and Zico in 1982 World Cup. Beauty, honesty, fairness, and tackling the ball and not the opposing player, were qualities completely unknown to most of the Dutch team on Sunday night.
Photo: Former South African President Nelson Mandela smiles next to his wife Graca Machel before the 2010 World Cup final soccer match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 11, 2010. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Spain’s players were not playing only for Spain; they were playing for the rest of the world. They managed to almost stay cool after a series of horrific tackles by the Dutch. They played their own game for the entire 120 minutes, proving that soccer belongs to the brave and honest. Although the importance of this game could not have been underestimated, they still played the game to please the eyes of their followers around the world. The midfield players, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Bousqet and more than anyone else, Iniesta, bore the brunt of most of the Dutch violence, yet they managed to control the game beautifully. The little magician, Iniesta, supplied the aficionados of soccer with beautiful little nuggets of artistry while playing hide-and-seek with the Dutch brutes.
Seeing Iker Casillas lift the World Cup 2010 trophy felt as though a gigantic justice has finally been done. Their win will send seismic waves through the world of soccer, being the best advocate for the game to go back to its roots and banish the negativity and rot out to where they belong in the dark recesses of soccer history.
Congratulations, Spain. You richly deserved this World Cup.
To the Dutch: you may want to research your history and find out why the once the most beautiful teams in the world, Johan Cruyff’s 1974 and Ruud Gulitt’s 1988 squads were the most loved in the world. Perhaps you’ll find inspiration there.
Photo: A security officer catches a pitch intruder after the latter covered the World Cup trophy with a cap before the 2010 World Cup final soccer match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 11, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray
Here are the reporter’s notes.
Netherlands: Maarten Stekelenburg, Gregory van der Wiel, John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Dirk Kuyt, Mark van Bommel, Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie.
Spain: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Pedro, David Villa.
Referee – Howard Webb (England)
Man of the match:
- 1st minute: The Dutch start game roughly, with van Persie injuring Xavi, showing that they are not intending this to be a match between friends.
- 3rd minute: Villa is offsides; Pedro’s pass is brilliant and dissected the Dutch defence.
- 4th minute: Bronkhurst injures Ramos with an attack clearly targeted at Ramos’ legs, not at the ball.
- 5th minute: Xavi’s cross into the penalty box finds Ramos’s forehead, but Stekelenburg produces one of the saves of the tournament. Spains starts positively.
- 8th minute: Busquets makes a mistake and the ball ends up at Kuyt’s feet, but the shot is an embarrassment.
- 9th minute: Xabi Alonso passes to Villa, but is short by couple of whiskers.
In the first 10 minutes, the Dutch have limited themselves in trying to contain, attacking the possession, and hoping that they have an opportunity to maul the Spaniards from counter-attacks.
- 11th minute: Ramos’s solo on the right-hand side ends up with a low cross into Stekelenburg’s area only to be taken out by Villa.
- 12th minute: Xabi Alonso’s cross to Villa finds him, and the volley ends up in Stekelenburg’s side net.
- 15th minute: Van Persie gets the first yellow card of the match after viciously striking Casillas
The Dutch have chosen to attack the Spaniards personally and they probably count on the top players being injured. This is poets versus gladiators.
- 16th minute: Puyol pulls the first foul for a Spanish player after 16 minutes in the game and gets a yellow card – only Spain’s fourth in seven matches.
- 18th minute: Sneijder’s long-range free kick is easily saved by Casillas.
- 21st minute: Van Bommel earns a yellow card after his dirty tackle on Iniesta from the back. He showed no intention to get to the ball. Shame on you, van Bommel. Possible he’ll pick up a red card before the end of the match.
- 22nd minute: Ramos commits Spain’s second foul, and his side gets a second yellow card. This is not a foul. Webb is trying to temper the match.
- 27th minute: De Jong gets a yellow card after he buries his studs into Xabi Alonso’s chest. The Dutch are playing disgracefully.
- 33rd minute: Sneijder returns the ball in a fair play move but Jabulani makes a wicked slip and almost ends up in the goal.
- 37th minute: Mathijsen is left unguarded on left side of penalty box but can’t complete the play, despite the well-measured ball to him.
- 38th minute: Pedro goes on solo against five guys and his shot flies wide past the post without worrying the goalkeeper.
- 42nd minute: Sneijder buries his studs into Busquets’s knee and miraculously avoids a yellow card.
- 46th minute: Robben shoots from the edge of the penalty box. Well saved by Casillas.
The Dutch end the first half by producing only two to three minutes of positive play. For the remainder of the first half, they did their best to destroy the game.
- 48th minute: The first half ends. It is going to be a grind for both teams. We bet on van Bommel or de Jong getting a red card.
- 48th minute: Puyol flicks the ball from corner and Capdevila misses the ball entirely, alone in front of the goal.
- 50th minute: A promising counter-attack by van der Wiel, but the cross was disappointing… so disappointing that Casillas just lets it slide past.
- 52nd minute: Robben’s shot from 28 meters is low and strong, but easily kept by Casillas.
- 54th minute: A free kick goes to Spain, due to van Bronckhorst holding Ramos without the ball.
- 55th minute: Xavi’s free kick from 28 metres, on the right-hand side, was wide and high (but not by much).
- 56th minute: Villa was fouled by Heitinga, again without the ball. Yellow card.
- 58th minute: Heitinga is left alone for free header in front of Casillas’s goal. Missed, and judged offsides.
- 60th minute: Pedro off, Jesus Navas on.
- 61st minute: Van Persie’s header from 10 metres is laboured and imprecise.
- 62nd minute: Chance of the game, missed. Robben alone in front of Casillas. Casillas shortens the angle, and deflects the ball with his feet.
Photo: Spain’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas saves a shot by Netherland’s Arjen Robben during their 2010 World Cup final soccer match at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 11, 2010. REUTERS/Oleg Popov
- 63rd minute: From the corner, Robben has another shot but skies it.
- 67th minute: Capdevila gets yellow card for a professional foul on van Persie. The Dutch coach is complaining that the Spanish are playing a rough game.
- 69th minute: Villa misses an almost certain goal after Heitinga commits an error from Navas’s ball. The shot is deflected by Mathijsen
- 70th minute: Another shot from Villa. Well saved.
- 71st minute: Elia in, Kuyt out.
- 73rd minute: Free kick for Spain. Iniesta fouled by Heitinga.
- 74th minute: Villa’s shot is high. No threat.
- 76th minute: Villa’s volley goes to the sky after nifty cross from Navas.
- 77th minute: After brilliant passing between Iniesta and Villa, the shot is deflected into the corner by van der Wiel.
- 77th minute: Ramos is alone in front of the goal, but his header goes high. He cannot believe he missed it.
- 79th minute: Corner for Spain.
- 81st minute: Iniesta’s brilliant footwork almost rewarded by coming close to having a goal from 7 metres, but is stopped by a brilliant intervention from Sneijder.
- 82nd minute: Free kick to Spain.
- 83rd minute: Robben almost manages to get in front of Casillas but Puyol managed to distract him enough to intercept the run.
- 84th minute: Robben gets a yellow card for his behaviour during the previous chance. He steps on Casillas’s head, but gets a card for protesting, not for the head-stomp.
- 87th minute: Xabi Alonso is replaced by Fabregas as both teams are preparing for extra time.
- 94th minute: Regulation time ends, and extra time begins.
- 2nd minute ET: Chaos around Dutch penalty box with several penalities claimed by the Spainish. Ends up in a corner kick.
- 3rd minute ET: Commentator: “The tackles continue to be spicy”.
- 5th minute ET: Fabregas is alone in front of Stekelenburg, who brilliantly saves the shot.
- 6th minute ET: Mathijsen’s free header goes above the crossbar. Casillas completely misjudged it.
- 8th minute ET: The corner for Spain fizzles out after Puyol’s shot goes wide.
- 9th minute ET: Iniesta in good position but fails to shoot for unknown reasons and thus is intercepted by van Bronckhorst. Iniesta dies in beauty.
- 9th minute ET: Van der Vaart in, de Jong out.
- 11th minute ET: Navas’s shot from the right-hand side was deflected into Stekelenburg’s left post by van Bronckhorst.
- 14th minute ET: Fabregas has a solo run of 25 metres, but his shot flies low and wide past the left post.
- 16th minute ET: Braijeid in, van Bronckhorst out.
- 19th minute ET: A second yellow card for Heitinga for a professional foul means he’s out. Walk of shame for him.
From the resulting free kick, Xavi’s shot is terrible. Very high.
- 21st minute ET: van der Wiel gets a yellow card for fouling Iniesta. Stekelenburg punches out the resulting free kick.
- 23rd minute ET: Webb forgives Robben for a second yellow card for shooting the ball in frustration after being called offside.
- 25th minute ET: Free kick for the Netherlands: 35 metres. Free kick takes a deflection, goes wide.
- 26th minute ET: GOAL!!!!! SPAIN! Iniesta scores! 10 metres out. Justice is served! Spain defends the beautiful game against the disgraceful Dutch.
Photo: Spain’s Andres Iniesta shoots to score a goal past Netherland’s goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg during their 2010 World Cup final soccer match at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 11, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Kooren
- 26th minute ET: Mathijsen is yellow-carded for protesting.
- 31st minute ET: Busquets gets a yellow card for handling the ball.
- 32nd minute ET: Xavi gets a yellow card for an unspecified offence.
- 33rd minute ET: Spain: 2010 World Champions.
Photo: FIFA President Sepp Blatter and South African President Jacob Zuma hand the World Cup trophy to Spain’s team captain Iker Casillas during the award ceremony at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 11, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Kooren
By Branko Brkic
Photo: Spain’s Xabi Alonso gets a boot in his chest by Netherlands’ Nigel de Jong as they fight for the ball during their 2010 World Cup final soccer match at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 11, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray