¡VIVA ES­PAÑA!

Ini­esta’s goal delivers World Cup, sends Spain into a frenzy

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Barry Wil­ner

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — Ex­haus­tion etched on their faces, fa­tigued bod­ies ready to be­tray them, the play­ers knew just one goal would be enough to win the elu­sive World Cup for their nation.

As the clock ticked to­ward penalty kicks, the shiv­er­ing crowd at Soc­cer City Sta­dium grew anx­ious.

Spain or the Nether­lands would win its first cham­pi­onship, if only some­one could find the net.

An­dres Ini­esta did, and Spain rules the soc­cer world at long, long last.

“We have all done an in­cred­i­ble job,” he said Sun­day, shortly af­ter the 1-0 ex­tra-time vic­tory. “I don’t think we even re­al­ize what we have done.”

They beat the Nether­lands to go one bet­ter than the Euro­pean ti­tle Es­paña won in 2008.

La Furia Roja won their last four games by a score of 1-0 — a tight mar­gin that char­ac­ter­ized the month­long tour­na­ment. The World Cup fea­tured a record 31 one-goal de­ci­sions out of 64 matches

(West Ger­many) or 1978 (Ar­gentina).

The goal in the 116th minute came off a turnover by the Dutch de­fense that Fabre­gas con­trolled just out­side the penalty area. Ini­esta stayed on the right and sneaked in to grab the pass and put his shot to the far post. And with that, Ini­esta tore off his jersey and raced to the corner where he was mobbed by his team­mates.

Hol­land now has more vic­to­ries in Cup games with­out a ti­tle than any nation: 19. Spain held that du­bi­ous record with 24.

“This one is hard to ac­cept,’’ said Dutch cap­tain Gio­vanni van Bron­ck­horst, play­ing his last game. “We held them down for so long, but we couldn’t get one our­selves. Some close chances.’’

The Nether­lands played a tough, phys­i­cal style that forced Spain out of its tra­di­tonal free-flow­ing game.

“They made it very dif­fi­cult for us to play com­fort­ably,” Span­ish coach Vi­cente Del Bosque said. “It was a very in­tense match.”

Yet the most dan­ger­ous player was Dutch for­ward Ar­jen Robben. He had a rare break­away in the 62nd minute af­ter a bril­liant through pass from Wes­ley Snei­jder. He had the ball on his pre­ferred left foot, but a charg­ing Span­ish goal­keeper Iker Casil­las barely got his right leg on the shot to de­flect it wide of the gap­ing net.

Then it was Steke­len­burg’s turn, hold­ing his ground af­ter a mis­play in front of the net gave the ever-po­tent David Villa an open shot.

Robben again looked as though he might get it with a burst of speed past the de­fense, but Casil­las, the team cap­tain who was voted the Cup’s top keeper, sprinted from his net and smoth­ered the ball be­fore Robben could take a shot.

“You felt that the team that would score first would win,” Dutch coach Bert Van Mar­wijk said. “We had two great chances through Ar­jen. We made a real game out of it.” — four more than the pre­vi­ous high set in 2002, ac­cord­ing to STATS LLC.

This fi­nal was a phys­i­cal test of at­tri­tion that some­times turned dirty — a record 14 yel­low cards were handed out and the Dutch fin­ished with 10 men. In the end, it was Ini­esta break­ing free in the penalty area, tak­ing a pass from Cesc Fabre­gas and putting a right­footed shot from 8 yards just past the out­stretched arms of goal­keeper Maarten Steke­len­burg with about seven min­utes left to play.

“When I struck it, it just had to go in,” Ini­esta said.

For the Dutch and their le­gions of orange-clad fans wear­ing ev­ery­thing from jer­seys to jump­suits to clown gear to pa­ja­mas, it was yet an­other dis­ap­point­ment.

Even with their first World Cup ti­tle tan­ta­liz­ingly within reach, they failed in the fi­nal for the third time. This one might have been the most bit­ter be­cause the Nether­lands was un­beaten not only in this tour­na­ment, but in qual­i­fy­ing for the first World Cup staged in South Africa. And the Oranje weren’t play­ing a team on en­emy turf, as in 1974

Daniel Ochoa de Olza Ar­mando Franca

At top: Spain’s An­dres Ini­esta, right, scores a goal past Nether­lands goal­keeper Maarten Steke­len­burg dur­ing the 116th minute of the World Cup fi­nal at Soc­cer City in Jo­han­nes­burg. The game was score­less deep into ex­tra time and Ini­esta’s goal was the only one of the match. Above: Span­ish fans cel­e­brate Ini­esta’s goal as they watch a live broad­cast in Madrid of the fi­nal against the Nether­lands, Spain’s first World Cup vic­tory.

Martin Meiss­ner

Spain goal­keeper Iker Casil­las holds up the World Cup tro­phy af­ter de­feat­ing the Nether­lands on Sun­day. Spain won 1-0 thanks in part to Casil­las’ strin­gent goal­keep­ing.

Has­san Am­mar

Card-filled: Ref­eree Howard Webb shows the red card to Nether­lands’ John Heitinga (3) dur­ing a game with 14 yel­low cards.

James Brosher

Lo­cal fla­vor: Dutch fans and sib­lings Ryan, Vanessa and Ashley Col­paart ner­vously watch the ac­tion at Fado Ir­ish Pub in Austin.

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