Spain prevails for first world championship

[SPAIN-NETHERLANDS] Spain won the World Cup for the first time when it beat the Netherlands, 1-0, on Andres Iniesta's goal in the 116th minute. Both teams had their chances to win the game before Iniesta's goal, but much-anticipated final was marred by 14 yellow cards -- a record for a World Cup final -- and one red card. Here's what we liked and didn't like about the Spain-Netherlands game ...

What we liked ...

-- Spain had the edge in possession and initiative, if not better chances, but didn't score until Iniesta's goal. Iniesta, Spain's most dangerous attacker in the game, was the deserving hero, teaming up with his former Barcelona academy teammate Cesc Fabregas for the game's only goal. Fabregas picked up Rafael van der Vaart's failed clearance of Fernando Torres' ball toward the area and fed Iniesta, whom van der Vaart kept onside and who scored with a side-volley past Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

-- Spain won the World Cup for the first time and became only the second team to win the World Cup after capturing the European Championship two earlier. (West Germany won the 1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup.) It's been a marked team ever since its win over Germany in the Euro '08 final, and its only losses since then were to the USA in the semifinals of the 2009 Confederations Cup and to Switzerland in its opening game at the World Cup.

-- The young Spaniards were overcome up emotion after Iniesta's goal. Even before the game ended, goalie Iker Casillas could be seen crying. After Iniesta's goal, he removed his jersey to reveal the message "Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros" ("Dani Jarque always with us") on his shirt in tribute to Dani Jarque, who suffered a heart attack and died in his hotel while on preseason tour of Italy in 2009. The Espanyol defender grew up in the Spanish national team system with Iniesta and so many of the young Spain players.

-- For those keeping score, Octopus Paul finished the World Cup with a perfect record of eight for eight in World Cup predictions. The "Oracle of Oberhausen" correctly picked Germany's demise against Spain in the semifinals and Spain's win over the Netherlands in the final.

What we didn't like ...

-- The Dutch strategy of breaking Spain's rhythm by fouling in midfield turned the game into a cardfest. The game featured 47 fouls, 14 yellow cards -- a record for a World Cup final -- and one red card to John Heitinga in the second overtime. Their display in the final will take much of the shine off their run of six straight wins to the final.

-- The Dutch lost the World Cup final for the third time, but they won't be remembered as the sympathetic losers they were in 1974 when the great Clockwork Orange team lost to host West Germany after scoring in the first minute and in 1978 when the Oranje (without Johan Cruyff) almost came from behind to beat host Argentina at the end of regulation.

-- In a tournament marked by low scoring, the lone out-and-out strikers -- David Villa for Spain and Robin van Persie for the Netherlands -- were non-factors in the final.

-- Spain finished with only eight goals in seven games, making it the lowest-scoring team to ever win the World Cup. It won all four knockout matches by 1-0 scores.

-- The 2010 final was only the second final to end scoreless after 90 minutes. The only final to go to a shootout after finishing 0-0 was the 1994 final won by Brazil over Italy.

15 comments about "Spain prevails for first world championship".
  1. James Froehlich, July 11, 2010 at 11:10 p.m.

    The brilliance or lack of same of Iniesta's shot should take nothing away from Spain's win. It was a difficult shot and he made it -- even though it came after a defensive lapse. I am constantly amazed at the complaining about the low quality of play at the WC's, this one included. When one considers that the best offensive players are competing against the best defensive players what do people expect?? Add to that the pressure that these players carry not just for club but now for country, it's amazing that the games are not more stilted than they are. Yet despite this environment you have the performances of Forlan, the Spanish midfield, the Germans Muller and Schweinsteiger, the South Korean team that played excellent attacking/passing soccer totally in the shadows ---c'mon folks, lighten up, there was a lot of skill on display that wasn't always reflected in the scores.

  2. Christopher Holden, July 11, 2010 at 11:57 p.m.

    Webb played a huge role. Spain won the game 1 - 0. I suppose if Holland was awarded the corner off the free kick in the 114.34th minute the outcome would have been decided in the shootout. The officiating was disastrous ... and for those who say penalties should not be called on one play or a corner is not a big deal (instead of a goal kick), well, they don't get it. As soon as the center defender got that red card the Netherlands should have gone into a defensive shell (much like Uruguay did against France on day one) and play for the shootout. Any time a Spaniard got touched they took a swan dive to the ground, and a yellow card followed suit. Yes Webb let a Red card violation go in the first half, but then he allowed the foul on Robben in the 2nd half ... and the Netherlands lost a man in extra time. That made up for the terrible non call (yellow and not straight red) in the first half. Robben missed the one great chance and that was it. You cannot miss that opportunity and expect to win the game. It would have been nice to see Llorente out there in extra time, but certainly you have to figure Fernando Torres can give you a guaranteed goal in an eventual shootout.

  3. Christopher Holden, July 12, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.

    oh yeah one other point ... never clear the ball to the middle of the field in extra time in the world cup final game. Go to the side line if necessary and OB.

  4. Steven SIegel, July 12, 2010 at 12:26 a.m.

    There were only two less goals in this World Cup than the previous one. Fewer goals scored in the group stage, but more scored in the round of 16.

    I was surprised by the power Iniesta got on his shot. He beat an excellent keeper and managed to score even though the keeper played it correctly.

  5. Raveen Rama, July 12, 2010 at 1:03 a.m.

    I have said it before and I am saying it again that there should be a shot clock in soccer. As soon as a team gets possession they must take a shot at goal within three minutes. This will make the game faster, and more attacking soccer can be seen and enjoyed. I don't think it will take anything away from the present game but make it will become a better spectator sport.
    Even though as a coach I am a proponent of possession soccer, what good is possession if we do not have the ability to take shots at goal? The semi final game between Germany and Spain was one example of boring possession soccer by Spain.
    After all, the bottom line in soccer is the number of goals you win by, not keeping the ball beautifully (and boringly)in the midfield and end up losing!
    Of course it is a strategy to keep the ball until you find an opening to penetrate but when there is a shot clock you will have to come up with other stategies and be more creative to get that shot off.
    We have to make the game of soccer more attractive by taking it up a notch.
    Consider the shot clock, be it two or three minutes but no longer than five.

  6. David Huff, July 12, 2010 at 8:36 a.m.

    I have to agree with Chris Holden, Webb was an awful referee and should be barred from future competitions. His non-red yellow on de Jong in the 1st half, the foul against Robben (by Puyol?) while in the box in the second half combined with the non-corner for Holland and the phantom 2nd yellow against Heitenga in extended time are glaring examples.

  7. Theodore Eison, July 12, 2010 at 10:35 a.m.

    And let's not forget that David Beckham saw a straight red in 1998 against Argentina for what Iniesta pulled at the 77:37 mark, which should have earned his second yellow, and precluded him being able to score the winner. Howard Webb should be reprimanded and this Spanish team shouldn't be celebrated. At least they gave the Golden Ball to someone who didn't take part in this match (Forlan), and the Golden Boot was given to Muller, who would have scored more goals and taken the real team to be celebrated, Germany, to the final if he hadn't been given yet another phantom yellow card. By and large, the ref'ing in this World Cup was better than the last World Cup, but Howard Webb was horrific -- I'd like to see more coverage of that fact in the media.

  8. Corey Zimmerman, July 12, 2010 at 11 a.m.

    Totally disagree with Mr. Holden and subsequent comments. Yes, Mr. Webb should have straight red-carded DeJong, who is one of the dirtiest players in soccer, and that was his big mistake. If he did that, we wouldnt be talking about a missed corner kick late in the 2nd half b/c Spain would have run away w/the game w/a man advantage. Ok, maybe he missed the deflection on the free kick, but that's the reason for SPain's goal? Was that not one of the worst defensive clearances on Torres' cross? Heading the ball down into the top of the box? It is not easy to ref a match where one team's strategy is to foul in the midfield to disrupt play of the other team. The Dutch were cynical and brutal in their fouling from the start. Webb could have called a million fouls, but I think he was trying to not become the story and was attempting to let the players decide the game. Yes, thee was diving on some fouls by Spain, but when you get hit as much as they did that's going to happen from time to time. Shame on the Dutch for for their whining and blame towards the refereeing. They have a great team, w/excellent skill, but they chose not to play that way. Robben is pure sour grapes for his tirades during and after the game. He had an easy put away, as did Fabregas, that world class strikers are not supposed to miss, especially w/the championship of the world on the line. Not one comment about that, only whining about how Puyol should have been red-carded. I'm not saying Webb was perfect, but how can you be when one team's objective is to consistently foul as a means of disrupting play. Rather, FIFA needs to take a good hard look at the game and figure out how to reverse the growing trend of nasty fouls, excessive grabbing and pulling in the box on free kicks and long throw-ins, diving, and of course, its time for goalline video replay. In the meantime, you can pick apart the refereeing all you want, but the clearly better team won yesterday.

  9. Tom Galioto, July 12, 2010 at 11:42 a.m.

    Poor referring but it was consistently poor. Good players know how to adapt. if the ref is lenient then more stuff happens, if he is strict it stops. webb missed some calls but the storyline of this game was the hyper-agressive fouling by the dutch not Webb. I like the dutch but I am no longer a fan based on how they decided to play this game. On a side note, a way to open up the game (rather than a shot clock!?) is to move the non-offides line from the half-line to the 18 yard box. That will open things up and not modify the rules enough that FIFA will fight it to vehemently. And it still prevents cherrypicking but gives the players way more space to create...

  10. Corey Zimmerman, July 12, 2010 at 11:47 a.m.

    Good point about the offsides line Tom. The old NASL had an offsides line at 35 yards from goal and it worked very well. Soccer purists went ballistic, but that was 35 years ago. Who knew then that the decision makers of the NASL were ahead of their time!

  11. Tom Galioto, July 12, 2010 at 12:04 p.m.

    FIFA needs to adapt. A great example of this is basketball adding a 3 pt line...

    I didnt know about the NASL offisdes line but since it was just an american league imposing its own rules then I could see where it would lose some international luster. The trick is to make FIFA want to impose the rule so they save face and look like heroes adapting the game to the modern era. I dont think it will happen anytime soon but it might be a good way to open up the game and create more natural scoring opportunities. Good defense is good soccer for purists but a good offense is fun to watch for 95% of fans.

  12. Raveen Rama, July 12, 2010 at 2:39 p.m.

    That's a good suggestion on the offsides line, Tom. I actually had second thoughts on the shot clock since a team hardly possesses the ball for two or three minutes at one time!
    But coming from Americans that suggestion may not take much notice. It is an excellent idea though for making the game more exciting and enjoyable.

  13. Raveen Rama, July 12, 2010 at 2:48 p.m.

    Corey, you may be missing the point that if the corner was given then the sequence of events in the game from that time onward would have changed, and the scoring opportunity by Spain may not have occurred.

  14. Corey Zimmerman, July 12, 2010 at 5:39 p.m.

    Raveen, I'm not missing the point. My point is that a number of incorrect calls are made in a game. Adapting to them is part of the game. So is accepting responsibility for your actions. The Dutch would rather blame the ref than take a hard look at their own failed strategy and execution. At least the Dutch coach came out and admitted the better team won. End of story.

  15. Steven SIegel, July 13, 2010 at 12:53 a.m.

    Soccer probably doesn't need rule changes as much as for the rules to be enforced. The mugging that goes on in the box is all against the rules.

    Remember when a pass back to the keeper was legal? Teams could just hold onto the ball all they wanted. Did changing the rule increase scoring as a whole?

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