Spain vs Netherlands, World Cup Final – LIVE!

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SPAIN – 1
NETHERLANDS – 0
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Spain become the eighth nation to win the FIFA World Cup, and to be perfectly frank it’s totally deserved. Since losing their opening game to Switzerland, they’ve been the best team in this tournament and great to watch. Congratulations to Spain, and thanks for joining me!

122nd minute (ET): SPAIN WIN THE WORLD CUP! The whistle blows! Iniesta collapses to his knees and looks to the sky, eyes closed as he sobs with happiness. Dutch players in tears, Spanish players and staff elated. Puyol consoles the forlorn Holland players who are sat on the ground. What a cracking end to a game that started disappointingly but got better as it progressed. Three World Cup finals lost now for Holland, but they had their own chances to win it.

120th minute (ET): Torres stays down after seeming to pull his hamstring, the Dutch play on, though there’s only a few players in the Spanish area …

119th minute (ET): The clock ticks down, Spain edge closer …

116th minute (ET): Incredible scenes. Iker Casillas is in tears of joy. Pique is also sobbing. Iniesta is booked for taking his shirt off in the celebrations. I doubt he’ll care. There looks to be no way back for Holland, but Spain have probably deserved that.

115th minute (ET): GOAL! Spain 1-0 Netherlands!Andres Iniesta has just become a Spanish legend. The ball breaks to Cesc Fabregas, who passes the ball ten yards to Iniesta. He blasts the ball home from twelve yards, past the outstretched hand of Stekelenburg. The Spanish go bananas.

114th minute (ET): The Dutch win a free-kick 35 yards out, Sneijder’s shot clearly deflects off of the Spanish wall, but a goal-kick is awarded, much to the chagrin of the crowd, who saw the deflection on the stadium’s big screens.

112th minute (ET): Robben is flagged offside, then petulantly kicks the ball away. He’s already been booked, but Howard Webb decides not to give him his second yellow, and merely has a word. Very forgiving, that – Robben can count himself a lucky boy.

111th minute (ET): Van der Wiel becomes the seventh Dutchman in the referee’s book, for a challenge on Iniesta.

110th minute (ET): The resulting free-kick is fired over by Xavi. Eleven men versus ten now … what a chance for Spain.

108th minute (ET): A lot of play in midfield now, with Spain pinging it about and OH MY GOODNESS that’s a RED CARDfor John Heitinga who seems to pull back Iniesta as the Spanish midfielder threatens to surge through the middle. A second yellow card, and Heitinga is the fifth man to be sent off in a World Cup final, but was it deserved? Replays suggest … perhaps it was. Heitinga trudges off, looking solemn.

106th minute (ET): Fourteen minutes from penalties, and the players are looking decidedly knackered.

105th minute (ET):Well, that’s the first half of extra-time gone, and the teams swap sides immediately. And here’s a substitution for Spain: David Villa is off, Fernando Torres is on. Can Torres cap his horrible World Cup with the goal that takes the title to Spain? That’s a big call from Vicente del Bosque.

104th minute (ET): Netherlands substitution: Giovanni van Bronckhorst, take a bow. The Dutch captain comes off for Edson Braafheid, and that brings van Bronckhorst’s brilliant career in football to an end – he retires after this game. A marvellous defender who’s won a pile of honors in his career. Can his team win and let him lift the biggest trophy of them all? For now, Van der Vaart takes the captain’s armband.

103rd minute (ET): Fabregas slaloms his way through the Dutch midfield far too easily before toe-poking a right-foot shot just wide from twenty yards. An impressively direct surge from Fabregas, but that Holland defence is looking sluggish.

100th minute (ET): This game is on fire now. Navas steams into the Dutch area from the right flank, and strikes a low shot against the legs of a Dutch defender – I couldn’t catch who – and the ball hits the side netting. One half of the stadium thought that was in. As did I, frankly.

98th minute (ET)
: Spain pass their way through the Dutch midfield, Iniesta sneaks through into the area, but there’s van Bronckhorst with a fantastic challenge, taking the ball away from the toes of Iniesta. Great defending from the skipper there. Van der Vaart is on for Holland, replacing de Jong.

97th minute (ET): A Spanish corner is met by the head of Puyol, but it trickles out for a Dutch goal-kick.

96th minute (ET): Now a Dutch corner, and Mathijsen rises above Ramos to head narrowly over! Chances are still being made, and it’s great to see both teams going for this, rather than settling for penalties.

94th minute (ET): There are some tired legs out there, and concentration levels are falling. Sneijder gives the ball away in midfield, Iniesta feeds a ball through to Fabregas … he’s clear … but Stekelenburg saves magnificently with his feet!

92nd minute (ET): A penalty appeal from Spain, after Heitinga seems to catch Xavi’s striking leg, but a replay shows the Spaniard kicked Heitinga. Corner to Spain – a good decision from Howard Webb, and the corner is easily cleared.

91st minute (ET): We’re off again, with nine players booked so far, but no goals. There have been big chances for both sides, and now they have another 30 minutes to capitalise on one. Otherwise, it’s the dreaded penalties.

93rd minute: And that’s it! We’re heading for another knee-trembling 30 minutes of football in the 2010 World Cup Final. Blimey …

92nd minute: Both teams now looking like they’d settle for extra-time. To be fair, they’ve served up a decent second half here, far better than the first 45 minutes. As I reflect on that, Sneijder goes for goal with a ridiculous 45-yard attempt. I probably don’t need to tell you how it ends up. Let’s just say it’s still goalless.

90th minute: We’ll have three minutes of second-half extra-time. A goal now would be fatal, surely …

88th minute: Lots of intricate Spanish passing around the Netherlands area, but suddenly possession is retrieved and a long ball is hoofed up to Robben, who just can’t catch the ball before it rolls out.

87th minute: Possession: Spain 56%, Netherlands 44%.

85th minute: Cesc Fabregas comes on for Alonso, another attacking substitution.

82nd minute: Close again for Holland: Robben completely outpaces Puyol after a flicked header from van Persie, but Casillas is out to smother the ball. Had Robben gone down there, it could have been a free-kick on the edge of the area and a red for Puyol, but he stayed on his feet and the chance was gone. Robben ungraciously chases referee Howard Webb demanding a penalty (?) and gets booked – quite right. This game is now really open. It’s got “late winner” written all over it.

81st minute: Iniesta forces past his way past Heitinga and deep into the Holland area, but Sneijder produces a brilliant last-ditch challenge that Iniesta warmly acknowledges. That was crucial.

80th minute: The Jabulani ball has been in the Dutch half for some time now. Into the last ten minutes …

78th minute: A van Bommel foul gets some retaliation from Iniesta, and Howard Webb trots over for a word with the Spaniard. Handbags at dawn.

76th minute: Lovely interplay between Villa and Xavi on the edge of Holland’s eighteen-yard box nets Spain a corner. It’s taken by Xavi, and Ramos – in ACRES of space – puts a bullet header over the Holland crossbar. That should have been 1-0.

74th minute: There’s only ever been one 0-0 draw in a World Cup final – the risible 1994 final in the USA between Brazil and Italy. Spain try to avoid another goalless draw as Navas crosses to Villa, who stretches to attempt an unlikely left-foot volley. More chances are coming now.

73rd minute: … but David Villa fires it high and wide.

72nd minute: Heitinga clumsily brings down Iniesta on the edge of the area. He’s been booked already, so needs to take care. Spanish free-kick, and a chance here …

71st minute: Holland take off Dirk Kuyt and bring on winger Eljero Elia. One substitution per team, and both have been attacking replacements.

69th minute: It’s Spain’s turn to miss a glorious chance. Navas makes van Bronckhorst look about 93-years-old on the right, fires a low, hard ball across the Dutch area. Heitinga misses it, it falls to David Villa four yards out at the far post … and somehow Heitinga recovers to block and redeem himself! Still 0-0!

68th minute: Villa is flagged offside for the umpteenth time, but there must have been inches in that. Suddenly, this match has taken a turn for the better.

66th minute: Capdevila acquires his own yellow card, bringing down van Persie on the right wing as the Dutchman threatened to tear free.

65th minute: Spain burst into the Dutch box but it’s frantically cleared by Heitinga.

61st minute: BEST CHANCE OF THE GAME SO FAR BY A MILE. A through ball from Sneijder creeps through the Spain defence, and suddenly Robben is clear. One touch, two touch, and he tries to slot it past Casillas, but the ‘keeper goes down and gets a foot to it. Should Robben have scored that? Yes. Was it terrific goalkeeping by Casillas? Very much so.

59th minute: Spain make the first substitution of the game, and it’s the ineffective Pedro off – speedy winger Jesus Navas is on. And straight after, a ball into the Spanish box is nodded wide by van Persie.

58th minute: The Holland free-kick goes to the far post, and that’s Heitinga with a header that goes wide. He was offside, though. Message to game: GET BETTER.

57th minute: Foul, foul, foul. Now it’s Iniesta who brings down Sneijder, though there’s no card. This isn’t making what should be a fantastic match much of a spectacle.

55th minute: Ouch. John Heitinga clatters into David Villa on the left flank, and goes in the book. In case you were losing count, that’s FIVE bookings from Holland.

54th minute: Xavi’s free-kick is close, but slightly high and wide. Stekelenburg had it covered.

53rd minute: Holland pick up the sixth booking of the game after van Bronckhorst brings down a flying Ramos on the edge of the area. It’s van Bronckhorst’s last ever match for Holland tonight – he’ll obviously be keen to avoid a Zidane-style finish to his international career.

51st minute: Holland buzzing around the Spanish area, as Fernando Torres jogs up and down the touchline. Will del Bosque roll the dice and introduce a second attacker to win this game? Torres has had a miserable World Cup, but what a game this would be for redemption …

49th minute: Now it’s Holland’s turn to attack, van der Wiel blasting a low cross right across the Spanish goalmouth. No Dutchman was waiting there, but this game might have opened up a little.

48th minute: Wow, close. The Spain corner is attacked by Puyol, the defender virtually horizontal as he leaps to head the ball in typical all-action style. He only gets a slight touch, it falls to Capdevila at the far post, but he completely misses his shot, Mathijsen style.

47th minute: Some nice SPanish passing here. Villa to Iniesta, who touches it through to Xavi who is this close to bursting through the Dutch defence. The ball comes back to Villa, who fires a corner against Mathijsen. Corner to Spain.

SECOND HALF – 46th minute: Spain kick off. Please let this half be better (i.e: watchable).

45th minute + 2: PEEP PEEP! Half-time at Soccer City in Johannesburg, and let’s be honest: that was pretty damn average. Lots of niggly fouls, lots of inaccurate passes, and very little in the way of chances. Ugh. Could Holland be down to ten men? I wouldn’t have been surprised if Nigel ‘Jackie Chan’ de Jong had been dismissed for that kung-fu kick of his (28th minute).

45th minute: We’re having two extra minutes at the end of this half. The Dutch get the ball to Robben on the left corner of the Spanish area, a position he loves to cut inside from, and he blasts a low shot at the near post. Casillas saves, but that was better from Holland.

44th minute: More misplaced passes from both sides. Most uncharacteristic, this.

41st minute: Sneijder and Alonso go in for a 50-50 challenge, and the Dutchman catches Alonso on the shin. Howard Webb talks to him, as Spain line up the free-kick. Alonso blasts it from fully 40 yards, but it goes well wide. On the Spanish bench, del Bosque – who I can’t recall ever seeing smile, and who bears a spooky resemblance to Inspector Chelmey from the Professor Layton games – isn’t pleased about that.

40th minute: The usually metronomic Spanish passing has yet to appear tonight. Holland, to be fair, are stifling them excellently.

38th minute: Goodness me, the already-booked van Bommel is playing with fire here, this time with another foul 20 yards outside his own area.

36th minute: A Netherlands corner is played straight to van Bommel on the edge of the area, who then plays it to Mathijsen, WHO THEN … produces a complete air shot from ten yards out. A defender’s shot.

34th minute: That’s nice to see: the Dutch sportingly fire the ball back to Casillas, but he can only touch this simple pass out for a corner. So Robin van Persie plays the corner straight to Casillas, who remembers how to catch this time. That was very generous from van Persie – a sporting gesture in a niggly final.

32nd minute: Casillas catches a long ball that’s launched from the Dutch half, and takes out Puyol in the process. Casillas kicks the ball out so his team-mate can get treatment.

30th minute: Ball possession: Spain 56%, Netherlands 44%. Probably what you’d have expected in the build-up to this match.

28th minute: That is shocking. Nigel de Jong plants his foot square in the chest of Xabi Alonso, who crumples to the floor in the center circle. That could easily have been a red card, and while I never like to see players asking officials to book opposition players, the outrage of the Spanish players is understandable. De Jong is booked, but could have walked. FIVE bookings so far. Alonso, winded, stumbles off the field.

27th minute: “We’re just waiting for something to happen,” comments Guy Mowbray. Too right.

25th minute: Spanish free-kick in the center circle after Sneijder comes into the back of Iniesta. It’s all been rather niggly so far, with none of the free-flowing football we’ve seen from these two sides (particularly Spain) in the tournament.

22nd minute: And now a booking for Ramos, for a foul on the Spanish right. Four cards so far, two per team.

21st minute: An absolutely crunching foul from – surprise! – Mark van Bommel, who slides through the back of Iniesta’s legs at about 80mph. Dangerous. I’ve seen red cards given for those, but Howard Webb sensibly deals a yellow.

19th minute: Robben charges past Alonso on the right, then almost cuts inside Capdevila, who gets a foot to it and knocks it out for a corner. Exciting burst there from Robben, a flash of the man’s immense talent

16th minute: Puyol joins van Persie in the book for a challenge on Robben, 40 yards from the Spanish goal. That was a little harsh. Referee Howard Webb happy to give out cards tonight, obviously – could we be due to see a second red card in consecutive World Cup finals? The free-kick is delivered by the fantastic Sneijder, but it’s straight at Casillas, and somewhat less than fantastic.

15th minute: … and this is what it leads to. Robin van Persie is the first player in the book after a frustrated challenge on Joan Capdevila.

14th minute: Holland need to put their foot on the ball and keep possession for a little more than four passes, because Spain seem to be feeding off the Dutch nerves. Holland are chasing shadows right now …

12th minute: Mark van Bommel foul #2.

10th minute: Iniesta plays Ramos down the right, and the right-back absolutely skins Kuyt before blasting a dangerous low ball in across the Dutch goalmouth. It’s cleared by Heitinga for a Spanish corner. From the corner, a cross comes in and Villa volleys with his left-foot into the side netting. Holland are reeling here!

8th minute: David Villa is flagged offside for the third time tonight. Chomping at the bit, I think they call that.

6th minute: Nervy start for Holland, this. But then Busquets misaims a pass to the feet of Dirk Kuyt, who gets a shot off. It goes straight to the grateful arms of Iker Casillas, however.

4th minute: Great chance for SpainMark van Bommel commits the first of what will probably be 783 niggly fouls tonight, the Spanish free-kick is whipped into the box, and Ramos powers a bullet header toward the center of the Dutch goal. Stekelenburg pulls off a neat save, and the ball is cleared.

3rd minute
: Villa is just caught offside from a Pedro through-ball. Easy decision, that one. Villa needs a goal tonight in his bid for the ridiculously named ‘Golden Shoe’.

2nd minute: First free-kick to Spain, ten yards in their own half.

1st minute
: “Can the Dutch stop the Spanish from passing their way to glory?” That’s Guy Mowbray’s opening line from the BBC commentary, and it’s a pertinent question. I just hope it’s half as good as last night’s storming 3rd/4th place play-off between Germany and Uruguay, because that was a fantastic match.

The teams shake hands, and everybody pretends to be relaxed. I’m neither Dutch or Spanish, but even I’m clenching my buttocks here. As an Englishman, I can’t help but be slightly proud that we have some representation in the final. YEAH OKAY I don’t care if it’s the referee. I’m still oddly pleased by that.

The teams are out: That last bit was a joke, naturally. Anyway, here we go! Click-clack, click-clack down the tunnel, and they’re out on the field, shaking hands with South Africa’s President Zuma, FIFA President/Luddite Sepp Blatter, and a few other dignataries. And here are the line-ups:
Netherlands: 1-Maarten Stekelenburg; 2-Gregory van der Wiel, 3-John Heitinga, 4-Joris Mathijsen, 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst; 7-Dirk Kuyt, 6-Mark van Bommel, 10-Wesley Sneijder, 8-Nigel de Jong, 11-Arjen Robben; 9-Robin van Persie.
Spain:
1-Iker Casillas; 15-Sergio Ramos, 3-Gerard Pique, 5-Carles Puyol, 11-Joan Capdevila; 14-Xabi Alonso, 8-Xavi, 6-Andres Iniesta, 16-Sergio Busquets; 18-Pedro, 7-David Villa.
Referee: Howard Webb (England)

A confession: Though I promised a “totally reasonable, unbiased account,” it’s worth noting I have got £50 coming to me for a Dutch win. With that in mind: COME ON HOLLAND.

Preamble
: Around two hours from now, an eighth nation will have won the FIFA World Cup, joining Brazil, Italy, Argentina, Germany, Uruguay, France, and England on the list of World Cup winners. Holland have already been in a World Cup Final twice, while Spain had previously never reached a semi-final. The Spanish are marginal favourites for tonight, though you can expect a totally reasonable, unbiased account from yours truly as I sit here, warm laptop resting on my groin, slowly killing any future chances I have of procreating.

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