Spain wins World Cup in extra time

JOHANNESBURG — The name Andres Iniesta will be celebrated in Spain for years to come.

Iniesta scored the winning goal Sunday in the final of the FIFA World Cup as Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time at Soccer City Stadium.

It’s the first World Cup victory for Spain, who despite an impressive soccer pedigree had never reached the final of the world’s most prestigious tournament prior to Sunday.

Iniesta took a pass from Cesc Fabregas, touched the ball once 12 metres out then volleyed the ball past Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

Spain came into the tournament as co-favourites with Brazil and held down the second spot in the FIFA rankings when the tournament began. After dropping their opening game in the group stage to Switzerland, Spain found their form and finished the opening round with wins over Honduras and Chile to finish first in Group H.

In the knockout stage they beat rival Portugal 1-0 in the round of 16, ousted Paraguay by the same score in the quarter-finals and edging Germany 1-0 in the semifinal.

They now hold both the European championship, won in 2008, and the World Cup at the same time.

The teams played to a 0-0 draw for the first 90 minutes setting up extra time for the second straight World Cup final. Spain failed to capitalize in the extra session with Cesc Fabregras breaking in Stekelenburg, but his shot was turned away.

Substitute Jesus Nevas took a shot from 10 metres out in the 101st minute, but Dutch captain Giovanni Van Bronckhorst got enough of a touch on the ball to send it just wide of the goal.

Dutch defender John Heitinga was sent off in the 109th minute after taking down Andres Iniesta and picking up his second yellow card of the day.

After a lacklustre and foul-filled first half, the game came alive in the second 45 minutes with both teams exchanging excellent scoring chances.

Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder played a brilliant ball trough to striker Arjen Robben in the 62nd minute, Robben split the Spanish defence and was in alone on Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas. The keeper, often cited as one of the best in the world, charged out and got a foot on the ball.

Spain had a couple of glorious chances, first David Villa in the 69th minute. The Spanish striker got the ball in the goal area after Heitinga missed a clearing attempt, but the defender recovered just in time to dive in front of Villa’s shot and keep the Dutch sheet clean.

Sergio Ramos had another great chance off a corner in the 77th minute, getting a head on the ball at the top of the goal area but put the ball over the crossbar.

Spain, who have masterfully controlled possession in most of their games at the World Cup, took control early in the first half of the final forcing Netherlands to concede fouls in the opening minutes. In the fifth minute Ramos used his head to redirect Xavi’s free kick, but Stekelenburg dove to his right to make the save.

The Dutch started slow, allowing Spain to have 60 per cent of the possession in the first few minutes, but came on strong late with Robben blasting a shot from the top of the penalty area in added time in the first half, but Casillas made a diving save of his own to keep the score level heading into the break.

The game lacked flow in the first half, with both aggressive play by both teams resulting in a host of fouls which slowed the game to a crawl. English referee Howard Webb was busy handing our five yellow cards in the first 28 minutes. Robin Van Persie, Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong of the Netherlands and Carlos Puyol and Ramos of Spain were all cautioned early and had to be on their best behaviour the rest of the contest to avoid putting their team a man short.

Webb whistled 20 fouls in the first 45 minutes, with the Dutch picking up 12 of them.

The parade of yellow cards continued in the second half with Heitinga, Van Bronckhorst, Robben, Gregory Van der Wiel and Joris Mathijsen getting cautioned for the Netherlands — who picked up nine yellow cards in all as a team — and Joan Capdevila, Iniesta (on his goal celebration) and Xavi picking up cards for Spain.

Source: Canwest News Service

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