The pre-match ceremonials had included an appearance by Nelson Mandela, warmly wrapped up against the cold, before the Final of the 2010 tournament could kick off.
Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque retained the starting line-up from the 1-0 semi-final victory over Germany which meant David Villa as the lone striker, Fernando Torres held back on the subs’ bench again, and Pedro’s pace being used to carry the battle to Holland in midfield.
Total football as a concept having beed developed by the Dutch before any of these players had been born it was ironic to see them looking tactically static and being turned every which way by Spain’s superior movement in midfield and down the flanks – the right, in particular, where Sergio Ranos galloped past Dirk Kuyt as if he was not there.
After only four minutes Ramos was fouled by Gio Van Bronckhorst and, when Xavi delivered the free kick, saw his header brilliantly parried by Maarten Stekelenburg, divin desperately to his right. Fortunately for Holland no Spaniard was within rebound-touching distance.
Ramos broke again past Kuyt again in the 10th minute and saw Heitinga, in a panic, slice his cross over the Dutch bar. After the corner Xabi Alonso slung over yet another dangerous right wing centre and this time Villa, beyond the far post and unmarked, volleyed into the side net.
Holland, with Van Marwijk irritated in the technical area, had to put some grit into the game to reclaim lost ground and time. That sparked eight tetchy 14 minutes which brought yellow cards for Robin Van Persie, Carles Puyol, Mark Van Bommel – for an awful tackle from behind on Andres Iniesta – Ramos and Nigel De Jong.
Dutch aggression did, at least, achieve its objective in breaking up the rhythm of Spain’s initial flowing football. Sneijder was not booked but was lectured by referee Howard Webb after recklessly bundling into Busquets and Alonso thumped an over-optimstic free kick wide.
In all the first half Spain skipper Iker Casillas had three moments of concern. One was a long low free kick from Sneijder which he caught securely, the second a ‘give-back’ lob from Greg Van der Wiel after an injury incident which bounced off the tips of his fingers and just wide of goal and then a Robben drive just on half-time which he tipped around a post.
To that extent, possibly worryingly for Spain, Casillas had been forced into making more stops than his Dutch opposite number.
The second started much the same way with Spain trying to play football and Holland trying to kick them out of it. Both Van Bronckhorst and Heitinga were booked for sly fouls though Joan Capdevila could have made it easier for Spain had he not missed his kick from close range in the 48th minute after Puyol headed on Xavi’s right-wing corner.
That said, Robben missed the best, easiest, clearest chance of the night when a defence-splitting pass from Sneijder caught Spain wide open. Robben raced into the box, deceived Casillas into diviing the wrong way but saw his shot flick the keeper’s outstretched boot and bounce for a corner.
Spain, relieved, returned to the attack but Villa was shooting wildly at half-chances and, even when substitute Jesus Navas turned Holland inside out the ex-Valencia man saw his effort deflected over the bar. Worse, Ramos planted a ‘free’ header over the top from a left-wing corner.
Robben then ran away clear again at the other end, shook off an attenmpt at a foul by Puyol only for Casillas to snatch the ball off his feet. Robben, apparently oblivious to the fact that Webb had given him the advantage, chased the referee in anger and joined the yellow card pack.
Extra time brought bad misses at both ends. Spain substitute Cesc Fabregas went clear but hit the keeper, Iniesta delayed a shot too long then Navas had a low drive deflected wide. Inbetween Holland’s Joris Mathijsen wasted a gift of a heading opportunity following a right-wing corner.
Spain brought on Fernando Torres for the misfiring Villa and Holland had Heitinga sent off for pulling back Iniesta – who rook revenge by shooting the winner after a made-in-Premier exchange between Torres and Fabregas.
Holland: Stekelenburg – Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst – Van Bommel, De Jong (Van der Vaart 98) – Robben, Sneijder, Kuyt (Elia 70) – Van Persie. Coach: Van Marwijk.
Spain: Casillas – Sergio Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila – Sergi Busquests, Alonso (Fabregas 86) – Pedro (Navas 60), Xavi, Iniesta – Villa (Torres 106). Coach: Del Bosque.
Referee: Webb (England).
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