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Sports

Spain lifts first World Cup, beating the Netherlands

Andres Iniesta scored the goal which finally settled the World Cup final. Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0, with the Barcelona man netting late in extra-time, after 90 minutes failed to produce a goal.

Andres Iniesta celebrates his winning goal in the World Cup final

Iniesta dedicated his winning goal to a football-player friend who died last year

Spain has won its first World Cup, overcoming the Netherlands at Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg. Vicente del Bosque's team, favorites before the tournament began, confirmed their place at the top of the soccer world, two years after claiming the 2008 European Championship.

Andres Iniesta scored the extra-time goal which secured the prize. The Barcelona midfielder collected a pass from Cesc Fabregas and fired a right-foot shot that beat Maarten Stekelenburg in the Dutch goal.

The breakthrough came in the 116th minute of the game. "It's incredible," said Iniesta after the match. "There aren't the words to describe what I am feeling."

Iniesta scoring his goal past Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg

Iniesta scored after receiving a pass from Fabregas deep into extra time

The game only really came alive in extra time, after an uninspiring first 90 minutes in which the referee was often at the center of attention. Twelve players were shown yellow, while Dutch defender Johnny Heitinga saw red with ten minutes of extra time remaining. Heitinga pulled Iniesta back on the edge of the box, and Howard Webb gave him his marching orders.

Both sides had chances to win it in the added 30 minutes. Spanish substitute Cesc Fabregas couldn't provide the finish when one-on-one, while Joris Mathijsen headed a corner over the bar from inside the six yard box at the other end.

Spain were marginally the better team in normal time, although the Netherlands had the best opening. Arjen Robben was played through by Wesley Sneijder and, one-on-one with Iker Casillas, could only hit his shot against the goalkeeper's foot.

The Bayern winger's pace continued to cause the Spanish defense problems, as the Netherlands played on the counter attack.

Spain tried to play their brand of intricate football, but were not at their fluid best. Dangerman David Villa thought he had grabbed the lead mid-way through the second half. His close-range shot was somehow deflected over the bar by Heitinga.

Spanish right-back Sergio Ramos also got himself in promising positions, only to fluff his lines. He did well to get his head on a fifth-minute corner and draw a full-length save from Stekelenburg. But Ramos should have done better with a second-half effort, heading over when unmarked six yards out.

The Netherlands arguably should have been down to ten men in the first half. Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong led with his studs when trying to win a bouncing ball and karate-kicked Xabi Alonso high in the chest. The referee only showed yellow.

Netherlands midfielder Nigel de Jong fouls his Spanish counterpart Xabi Alonso during the World Cup final

De Jong's challenge was verging on assault

Spanish coach Vincente Del Bosque admitted that his side had been in difficulty at times. "It was a hard game. We started well and then they had chances in the second half. But after that I believed we were slightly superior."

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk took the defeat with grace, but could not hide his disappointment. "The best team won. I am disappointed. It is a world championship and we have just lost a final."

Del Bosque again left striker Fernando Torres out of his starting 11, preferring Barcelona winger Pedro, in the same team that started the semifinal win over Germany. Torres came on late in extra time, but quickly pulled up injured.

The Netherlands made two changes to its line-up. Midfielder Nigel de Jong and right back Gregory Van der Wiel returned to the team after missing the semifinal triumph against Uruguay due to suspension.

Spain were co-favourites before the tournament, but lost their opening game to Switzerland. They got things together to qualify from Group H, and have won each of their knockout games just 1-0.

Third defeat in finals

While Spain was playing in its first final, the Netherlands have now lost the three World Cup finals they have competed in. The Oranje were runners-up in 1974 and 1978. Bert van Marwijk's team knocked out knocked out Brazil in the quarterfinal, and scored double the number of goals Spain had before this evening.

Spain became the first European team to win a World Cup held outside Europe.

An estimated 700 million people were watching the game on television around the globe. However, the stadium itself was about 10,000 people short of being full.

Fans were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of former president Nelson Mandela, who had to miss the opening ceremonies on June 11 after his great-granddaughter died in a car accident. The icon of South African democracy was driven onto the field in a golf cart.

Author: Thomas Sheldrick, Richard Connor
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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