With the Dutch having a chance to put away the ghosts of 1974 and 1978 that haunted their previous two World Cup finals, the matchup against Spain provided the Netherlands an opportunity to rewrite their footballing history. Unfortunately for the Dutch, it was not meant to be. With four minutes remaining in the final extra time session, Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta’s volley found its way past keeper Maarten Stekelenburg to give Spain a 1-0 win.
This final won’t go down as a classic game by any stretch but both teams had chances to score. Early on, Sergio Ramos’s header nearly found the back of the net but Stekelenburg made a brilliant save to deny Ramos and keep the score level. Spain’s lethal weapon David Villa struggled throughout the game to find any gaps in the Dutch defense but his chance to score off a left-footed volley went astray.
With Spain dominating the possession, the Dutch looked to counter-attack. In the second half, Wesley Sneijder, who’s been the lynchpin to the Dutch’s success throughout this tournament played a wonderful through ball that found the foot of Arjen Robben. With a one-on-one chance with goalie Iker Cassilas, Robben tried to power a shot past Cassilas in lieu of chipping it over the keeper’s head. Cassilas got a touch on the shot and the ball barely sailed wide, leaving Robben and the Oranje in disbelief.
While this match lacked scoring, it did not lack for fouls. 12 yellow cards and one red card were given to both teams, as the physical Dutch kept hacking away at the Spaniards. In the extra time, center back John Heitinga pulled down Iniesta and for that received his second yellow card, leaving the Dutch down to 10 men. With Spain putting on the pressure with great link-up play all over the pitch, the Dutch defense blinked first and yielded a goal to Iniesta.
Desperately hoping for an equalizer, the Netherlands were unable to sum up anything in their attack and as the final whistle sounded, the Dutch players stood in dismay. Spain claimed its first World Cup title and has the honors of being the World and European champions. The Dutch leave South Africa empty-handed once again in search of their first title. Nevertheless, this group of players argued very little, played well on the field, and did not crack under the pressure. They just ran into the world’s best team.