[REPORT CARD] Soccer America's Mike Woitalla grades the Spanish players in Spain's 1-0 win over the Netherlands in the World Cup final on Sunday.
The Dutch disrupted Spain’s midfield possession game with fouls, but Xavi and Co., managed as usual to control the ball for most of the game.
Spain responded to its frontline’s timid performance by sending midfielder Andres Iniesta, the eventual hero, into the heart of the Dutch defense.
After keeper Iker Casillas’ save on the best Dutch chance, Spain became more threatening with sub Jesus Navas on the right flank. Cesc Fabregas invigorated its midfield in overtime.
RATING/PLAYER (CLUB) GP-G
8 Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) 111-0
Who knows how the game would have gone had the goalkeeper not made the foot save on Arjen Robben’s breakaway effort? Casillas also handled high balls securely.
7 Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) 67-5
The right back had an early diver header well saved by Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg and should have scored on corner-kick header from six yards in the second half. Otherwise he was excellent, constantly intercepting Dutch passes and launching forays down the wing.
5 Gerard Pique (Barcelona) 23-4
The poised central defender missed the through ball Robben broke free on for the big Dutch chance but otherwise patrolled competently.
5 Carles Puyol (Barcelona) 90-3
Managed not be punished by the Dutch speed through the middle despite looking vulnerable, especially when Robben shot weakly in the 83rd minute.
6 Joan Capdevila (Villarreal) 52-4
The left back whiffed on a close-range shot in 48th minute after a corner kick was flicked on. Despite his movements forward, he prevented the Dutch flank attacks.
6 Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) 20-0
A poor pass set up an early long-range Dirk Kuyt chance but he was an important part of Spain’s ability to play out of the back while under Dutch pressure.
7 Xavi (Barcelona) 94-8
Could have done better with his overtime free kick, but made sure Spain kept its composure after the Dutch came out with flying tackles. Was the midfield orchestrator as always.
5 Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid) 76-9
Survived getting cleated in the chest by Nigel de Jong to play a solid if unspectacular game as defensive midfielder – not nearly as dynamic as his replacement, Cesc Fabregas
8 Andres Iniesta (Barcelona) 49-7
By penetrating the Dutch penalty area, he was Spain’s most dangerous player. His clever back-heel pass kept the counterattack going that led to his game-winning strike, in which his first touch bounced the ball up for him to strike a fierce volley.
3 Pedro (Barcelona) 7-1
His subdued performance prevented the Spaniards from threatening the Dutch early on.
4 David Villa (Valencia) 65-43
The man whose five goals got Spain to the final had a quiet day – shooting wide a couple of times, having a close-range effort blocked.
6 Jesus Navas (Sevilla) 9-1
Arrived in the 60th minute for Pedro and gave Spain a threat on the right wing, including a setup that Villa failed to finish from close-range. Launched the counterattack that led to the winning goal.
8 Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) 54-6
Threatened with two shots in overtime, forcing a save and hitting wide. Served Iniesta for the World Cup-winning goal.
5 Fernando Torres (Liverpool) 80-24
In a cameo, lofted the ball that the Rafael van der Vaart failed clear safely, allowing Fabregas to feed Iniesta.
(Ratings: 1=terrible; 5=average; 10=brilliant.)
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