Netherlands 0 – 1 Spain. 😦
The first half was like what most of us expected – with Spain dominating much of the possession. However, thanks to the resolute (and I must say brute) defending from the Dutch side, they were able to hold out the Spanish attackers at bay. The real chance for the Spanish outfit in the first half came from Sergio Ramos, but was blocked superbly by Maarten Stekelenburg.
On the other side of the pitch, Arjen Robben put Iker Casillas to the test with a blistering left-footed strike from just outside the box. A Wesley Sneijder free kick from an earlier play went through the shooting range of Joris Mathijsen, but he failed to have contact with the ball.
But the real highlight of the first half was the flurry of yellow cards. The two holding midfielders, Nigel de Jong (for a picture-perfect karate kick on Xabi Alonso) and Mark van Bommel (for a ruthless tackle from behind on Andres Iniesta) got booked early. One of them might have even be red-carded, but who wants a FIFA Final with a clear disadvantage right at the start anyway? On a side note, this was the dirtiest game the Oranje has been, and so far, I have liked what I saw. The only way to stop a prolific passing team was to disrupt the rhythm and get to the passing lane by being aggressive, really aggressive. At the half, we have a goalless draw.
The start of the second half was more lively though – in terms of goal-scoring attempts and tackles (as well as yellows). Carles Puyol’s header from a Xavi Hernandez corner found the path of Joan Capdevila, but he failed to make a good attempt out of it. Robben (and also a header from John Heitinga) had some nice shots as well, especially on a breakaway (Wesley Sneijder with the pass) with only the keeper to beat; but Casillas showed why he is Spain’s #1. Surely, a goal will separate these two?
On the other side, David Villa had an almost goal. But Maarten Stekelenburg will not be denied. It was a fantastic save. (By the way, Jesus Navas has been substituted in for Sergio Busquets and Eljero Elia for Dirk Kuyt). Then, a corner saw the head of full-back Sergio Ramos with nobody within yards, but it flies to the stands. From this point, I’m sure every football fan got their hearts pumping! From this point, 9 yellow cards have been handed already. Cesc Fabregas enters the game as well for Xabi Alonso. And then, end of regulation.
Cesc Fabregas has been the difference, creating chances for Spain in the 1st half of the extra time, but the defenders are resolute. Finally then, my main man Rafael van der Vaart was entered into the pitch for Nigel de Jong. Game on. 🙂
And then, just when we are playing “even” football, Heitinga gets sent off for a second yellow on Iniesta. Mark van Bommel drops as one of the center-halves. Gregory van der Wiel joins the yellow card fray as well. Spain looked dangerous in the last few minutes. And just when we are about to go on penalties, Andres Iniesta has made what probably the biggest shot of his career after the match-winning shot against Chelsea in the Champions League 2 years ago. And the whistle blows. Spain wins their first ever world cup.