Andrés Iniesta (pictured) scored the World Cup winning goal on 116 minutes as Spain prevailed 1-0 over Holland at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. A chippy affair that featured more than a dozen yellow cards, and a red for John Heitinga in extra-time, saw Spain survive two incredibly close calls and take their second consecutive major trophy, having never won a single one before. The reigning European Champions add the World Cup to their trophy case, though Holland could rightfully this game was their opportunity lost. Twice Arjen Robben nearly gave the Dutch what would have been a 1-0 lead but both times he was foiled. English referee Howard Webb was far more involved than anyone would have wanted, constantly stopping play and, particularly in the first half, handing out overzealous cards. Still, the game was decided on the field, even if Holland were a man down for the final ten minutes, rather than from a penalty or shoot-out. The game was tense from start to finish with both sides obviously aware of the consequences of any mistakes. Spain are now clear of the dreaded group of best footballing nations never to win the World Cup. Holland now top it.
Unfortunately the game will probably always be remembered, outside of Spain at least, for it’s highly negative display. Both teams were content in cutting each other down at every opportunity. Near constant bickering between players and with the referees slowed the game to a mostly dull pace as diving as well as seriously hard fouls threatened to turn observers into stone. Perhaps it is only negative football that can, these days, survive against the world’s top players. Still, it was disheartening to see the brutal and slow game unfold over 120 grueling minutes. Thankfully Iniesta saved the world from another penalty shoot-out in the final.
Meanwhile, perhaps fitting perfectly with the ghastly display of the final, Diego Forlán of fourth place Uruguay won the Golden Ball as most outstanding player while Thomas Müller of third place Germany won the Golden Boot. Spain won the World Cup by scoring just eight goals. The Spanish were universally praised after their Euro2008 victory. At least in this space, they will be afforded no similar treatment.