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Spain strike gold as Oranje see red

Spain strike gold as Oranje see red


Netherlands midfielder Nigel de Jong (left) puts his boot into Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso during the 2010 World Cup final Sunday. AFP

English referee Howard Webb (front right) shows a red card to Netherlands defender John Heitinga (front left) during extra time. AFP

IN the 1970s, the Dutch won fans across the world with the brand of “total football” that carried them to two World Cup finals. On Sunday night in Johannesburg, they won few fans with their new contribution to the vocabulary of the beautiful game: ‘total thuggery’.

Those who watched the way the Netherlands fought their way back into the quarterfinal with Brazil, when 1-0 down at half time, were forewarned. Victory at all costs is the new Dutch motto.

But they did not win.

Fittingly it was one of the tournament’s standout players, Andres Iniesta, who broke Oranje hearts with a late strike when penalties seemed inevitable.

The ultimate prize in football went to Spain not the Netherlands. In so doing Spain became the eighth winners of the World Cup trophy and the first team to win the tournament having lost their opening game in the finals.

Quite how the Dutch managed to keep their full quota of 11 men until half time is a question best asked of English referee Howard Webb. Clearly, he did not want to leave his imprint on the game through dishing out any hasty red cards, yellow was his colour of preference.

Nigel de Jong had no compunction about leaving his imprint on Xavi Alonso’s chest. The Netherlands midfielder’s first-half challenge owed more to total kickboxing than total football.

The build-up to the final focused on Spain and the Netherlands being the two in-form nations. Spain had won 50 out of their previous 54 games, while the Dutch had gone 25 matches unbeaten. A feast of football awaited, with two nations renowned for the quality of their play. Even Nelson Mandela made it to the opening ceremony.

Unfortunately, the first half failed to live up to great expectations. Spain dominated possession as the Dutch racked up their foul count.

Somehow it took 110 minutes for a Dutchman to see red. John Heitinga receiving a second yellow for pulling Iniesta back as he once more closed in on Stekelenburg. Xavi wasted the ensuing free kick.

Finally, the Dutch dyke was breached by Iniesta, despite Dutch complaints for a foul in the build-up to the goal. Justice was seen to be done as most of the Dutch rough stuff was dished out on the Barcelona midfielder.

Jubilation across Spain, misery across the Netherlands. The winner on the night was Andres Iniesta, who somehow managed to ride some crude Dutch challenges to prove that the pass is mightier than the foul.

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