Sunday, July 11, 2010
WORLD CUP: Iniesta, Spain conquer tough Dutch
AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev
Spain made history with their first World Cup trophy.
IN BRIEF: Holland plays a smart, tough game -- some might describe it as unflatteringly brutal, but we won't, no matter the nine yellow and one red cards -- to limit the effectiveness of Spain's possession game and nearly pulls out a victory on counters through Arjen Robben. Instead, it goes to overtime, and with penalty kicks looming, Andres Iniesta finds a bit of space, takes a fine feed from Cesc Fabregas, and Spain celebrates its first World Cup title.
WOW! MOMENT: Who wasn't prepared for penalties? They were coming … until Iniesta's emphatic strike -- the one truly superb shot in a game filled with chances -- made the difference and set off celebrations all over Spain, Catalonia and the Basque Country included.
BEST PLAYER: We could go with Iniesta, whose goal capped an influential performance at the heart of Spain's attack, or with his midfield mate Xavi. Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, especially for two breakaway stops on Robben, also is worthy. Wesley Sneijder was massive for the Dutch, setting up one of Robben's attempts, although it was his defensive work that impressed most. But our choice is Mark van Bommel, the pivotal player as Holland disrupted Spain's pass-and-possess style, a must if the Dutch were going to have a real chance in this game. He destroyed Spanish attacks, wasn't shy about bringing a physical dimension to the proceedings and did a superb job shadowing Xavi, La Furia Roja's most important figure.
BEST GOAL: There was only one, of course, and it was a fit finish for so dramatic a final. A terrific buildup, a poor clearance, and then Iniesta gets a good first touch on Fabregas' pass and perfectly volleys past goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg before Rafael van der Vaart can slide in to block it.
MIGHTIEST MISCUES: We're not going to fault any of the players, except maybe Nigel De Jong, for trying to put his boot through Xabi Alonso's chest. There were some crunching tackles, a few dives, some “professional” play, and if you expected anything else in so important an encounter, then God bless you.
The weakest player in this one was English referee Howard Webb, whose attempt to hold tightly onto the reins led to a series of questionable decisions. Every bit of contact, it seemed at times, was worthy of a yellow card, and most of the record 14 cautions he doled out --- two of them to Dutch defender John Heitinga -- were excessive.
Yet De Jong drew merely yellow for a clear red-card offense, after a grisly foul almost a half-hour in. And he sent off Heitinga, with a second yellow for impeding Fernando Torres on a breakaway 19 minutes into overtime, after neglecting to give Carles Puyol a second yellow, or even calling a foul, when he similarly slowed down Robben.
Webb enjoyed a decent World Cup, one of the few referees to do so, but he capped it with a dreadful final.
WORTH NOTING: Five previous finals went to overtime, with Italy (1934, over Czechoslovakia), England (1966, over West Germany) and Argentina (1978, over Holland) prevailing in extra time and Brazil (1994, over Italy) and Italy (2006, over France) winning on penalties. … This was the first World Cup final that did not feature Brazil, Argentina, Italy or Germany. … Dutch authorities declared Amsterdam “full” and shut off access to the city before the game began.
WORTHY WINNER: Diego Forlan's selection for the Golden Ball, or tournament MVP, was a delightful surprise. The Uruguay forward, as much provider as scorer for the unexpected semifinalists, arguably meant more to his side than any other player did for theirs. It's rare the top player comes from the fourth-place team, but it's a deserved award.
The Silver and Bronze Balls went to Sneijder and Spain's David Villa; Thomas Mueller, who won the Golden Boot (as top scorer) and Best Young Player honor, perhaps should have finished in the top three, and maybe there should have been room for Spanish general Xavi.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, PART 1: “It’s the most beautiful that there is. It’s spectacular.” -- Spanish goalscorer Andres Iniesta, on the World Cup trophy.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, PART 2: “Our fouls may be sad for a final, (but) I would have loved to win it with not-so-beautiful football.” -- Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, who has been criticized at home because Holland's focus on results was at the expense of the Oranje's trademark flair.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, PART 3: “We’ve come so close, and that makes it even more disappointing. We had to take one of our chances, and you never know what might have happened after that.” -- Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who played his final professional game.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, PART 4: “We are angry that we lost because we came so close. I know you cannot blame others, but the ref was more favorable to Spain.” -- Dirk Kuyt, who one of the few Dutch players who wasn't cautioned by English referee Howard Webb.
Netherlands 0, Spain (Iniesta 116), OT
Golden Ball (MVP): Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
Silver Ball: Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
Bronze Ball: David Villa (Spain)
Golden Boot (top scorer): Thomas Mueller (Germany)
Silver Boot: David Villa (Spain)
Bronze Boot: Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
Golden Glove (top goalkeeper): Iker Casillas (Spain)
Best Young Player: Thomas Mueller (Germany
Fair Play Award: Spain
GOLDEN BOOT STANDINGS
1. Thomas Mueller (Germany) 5 goals-3 assists (473 minutes)
2. David Villa (Spain) 5-1 (635)
3. Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands) 5-1 (652)
4. Diego Forlan (Uruguay) 5-1 (654)
5. Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina) 4-0 (341)
6. Robert Vittek (Slovakia) 4-0 (353)
7. Miroslav Klose (Germany) 4-0 (357)
8. Luis Suarez (Uruguay 3-2 (543)
9. Landon Donovan (U.S.) 3-0 (390)
10. Luis Fabiano (Brazil) 3-0 (418)
WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS
1954: West Germany
1974: West Germany
1990: West Germany