Spain have won the World Cup after defeating a sturdy Dutch side 1-0 win after extra time.
Andres Iniesta was the goal hero with only four minutes before the expected penalty kicks. He received the ball from Cesc Fabregas and drove home to victorious celebrations.
It was an epic match, but the Spanish deserved to win. They controlled the tempo and have been the most impressive team in the tournament, despite losing their opening fixture against Switzerland.
Holland can be proud of their effort and had their chances, but ultimately came up short against a superior outfit. They also had Johnny Heitinga sent off for two bookable offences.
After some early initial pressure, Spain almost scored after five minutes. Xavi’s free kick found Sergio Ramos, but his header was saved excellently by Maarten Stekenlenburg, and Gerard Pique was unable to do anything with the rebound.
The Dutch looked nervous and were unable to keep hold of the ball. Ramos easily weaved into the opposition box but his cross was cleared from only a few yards from goal. David Villa was next up to try his luck with a volley, but the angle was too tight and the ball nestled into the side netting.
Holland did finally threaten through a Wesley Sneijder free kick after 18 minutes, but despite a tricky bounce, Iker Casillas gathered the ball easily.
However, they were not making great inroads, and the Spanish were predictably dominating the play. The game, though, started to slow down after 20 minutes as both teams appeared to be aware of what was at stake.
The first half an hour will be remembered more for the yellow cards than anything else – three for Holland and two for Spain – with Nigel de Jong lucky to still be on the park after a kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso.
The Netherlands could have taken the lead with ten minutes left of the first half remaining. A clever corner allowed Mark van Bommel to set up Joris Mathijsen but the defender missed the ball when he swung for it.
Despite Spain’s dominance in possession, apart from the opening ten minutes, they did not look like scoring, with Villa and Xavi looking unusually quiet.
And it was Holland who finished the first half the stronger. Arjen Robben’s twenty yard drive forced Casillas to parry the ball out for a corner, and they were unable to make anything from the set piece.
Spain upped the tempo in the second half and may have scored through Joan Capdevila after Carles Puyol’s assist, but the defender completely miskicked the ball when shooting.
The Dutch still looked good going forward, particularly through Robben and Robin van Persie, and the former should have opened the scoring. He found himself clear in on goal, but the side footed effort clipped of Casillas’ boot and wide.
It was a golden opportunity for the Bayern Munich star, and he really should have done better.
And he was almost made to pay for his miss with twenty minutes to go. Jesus Navas’ cross found Villa who looked poised to score. However, the ball was blasted off Heitinga and over the bar.
And then the Barcelona new boy tried a spectacular volley, but this attempt was never going to come off. Even still, worryingly for Holland, Villa was starting to make an impact
The game was starting to really open up at this point. Whether it was down to fatigue or more ambition from both sides, the contest started to live up to its billing.
Spain had their best chance with less than 15 minutes remaining through Ramos, but his free header from only six yards out went well over.
Van Bommel was lucky to still be on the pitch at this stage. Despite being on a booking he continually fouled throughout the match, with Iniesta feeling the brunt of a follow through.
Spain were looking the fitter and stronger towards the end of the ninety minutes, and if it wasn’t for some desperate defending from the Dutch, the game could have been settled by now.
But Robben found himself in a similar position he was in earlier. A lump up the field sent him clear, but some great goalkeeping by Casillas snuffed out the chance.
Robben was booked after the incident after complaining that he should have been awarded a penalty.
Spain then brought on Fabregas for Alonso in what was a very attacking substitution. The gaps in the Dutch defence were evident and it was surprising that they hadn’t already taken advantage of their superior play.
With the match heading for extra time, the Dutch looked tired andthe Spanish players were still looking as comfortable on the ball as they did at the beginning.
Then, into extra time, Spain appealed for a penalty from referee Howard Webb. Xavi appeared to fall in the box, but there was nothing really in it. The midfielder looked to be the one who offended, not the victim.
The game was really heating up by now: Fabregas had a big chance with only Stekelenburg to beat, but his shoot was tame and straight at the Ajax goalkeeper. Then Casillas was found in no mans land, but Mathijsen’s header was well over.
And then Navas’ deflected shot almost did the goalkeeper, but fortunately for him, the ball trickled wide.
With only 12 minutes to go, Heitinga was sent off for two bookable offences after pulling back Iniesta. It was a deserved booking and the match really now was Spain’s to lose.
And they made the extra man count with just minutes remaining in extra time through Iniesta. A great break from Navas allowed his teammates to spread the ball across the filed. Fabregas played in the free Iniesta who fired home. Stekelenburg got a touch, but the shot was too powerful to prevent into hitting the net.
It was a wonderful moment for Iniesta and Spain. The celebrations were unreal, and Casillas looked as if he was in tears after the goal. They knew the game was over, as the Dutch had little time to make a comeback.
Spain then counted down the clock to win their very first World Cup.
Netherlands:Stekelenburg, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst (Braafheid, 105), Van Bommel, De Jong (Van der Vaart, 99) Sneijder, Kuyt (Elia, 70), Van Persie, Robben.
Spain: Casillas, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila, Sergio Ramos, Iniesta, Xavi, Alonso (Fabregas, 87) Busquets, Villa (Torres, 105) Pedro (G Jesus Navas, 60).