Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

James Lawton: Holland's World Cup final defeat is satisying victory for attacking football

Fernando Torres of Spain lifts the World Cup trophy as the Spain team celebrate victory following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Fernando Torres of Spain lifts the World Cup trophy as the Spain team celebrate victory following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Spain fans enjoy the atmosphere during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Iker Casillas, captain of Spain (C), celebrate with his team mates after they won the World Cup in a 1-0 victory over Holland at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg
Iker Casillas of Spain kisses the World Cup trophy as the Spain team celebrate victory following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
David Villa holds the World Cup trophy after Spain's 1-0 win over Holland in Johannesburg
Spaniards celebrate in Madrid while watching on an outdoor tv screen Spain play The Netherlands in the FIFA World Cup Final on July 11, 2010 in Madrid, Spain
Iker Casillas, captain of Spain (C), and the Spain team celebrate victory with the World Cup trophy during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas holds up the World Cup trophy as he and other team members celebrate, as South African President Jacob Zuma, front right, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter, second from right in front, look on
Spain fans enjoy the atmosphere during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
The Spanish team pose for photographers with the World Cup trophy following the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa
The Spain team and staff celebrate victory with the World Cup trophy following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Sergio Ramos of Spain celebrates winning the World Cup during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
A Spain fan enjoys the atmosphere prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Spain fans enjoy the atmosphere during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
The Spain team celebrate winning the World Cup during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Sergio Ramos of Spain celebrates winning the World Cup during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Spaniards celebrate in Madrid while watching on an outdoor tv screen Spain play The Netherlands in the FIFA World Cup Final on July 11, 2010 in Madrid, Spain
Carles Puyol celebrates after Spain's World Cup final win over Holland
Eljero Elia of the Netherlands shows his dejection at the final whistle after losing the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Xavi Hernandez of Spain kisses the World Cup as he collects his medal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
David Villa and Sergio Ramos of Spain lift the World Cup trophy as the Spain team celebrate victory following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010
Spaniards celebrate in Madrid while watching on an outdoor tv screen Spain play The Netherlands in the FIFA World Cup Final on July 11, 2010 in Madrid, Spain
Sergio Ramos of Spain lifts the World Cup trophy amongst a melee of media and security following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Sergio Ramos of Spain kisses the World Cup trophy as the Spain team celebrate victory following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Spain's Andres Iniesta celebrates after scoring a goal during the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa
Fireworks explode as the Spain team celebrate victory with the World Cup trophy following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Maarten Stekelenburg of the Netherlands looks dejected as Andres Iniesta of Spain scores the opening goal late into extra time during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Spanish fans celebrate the goal as they watch in Barcelona's Plaza Espana a live broadcast of the World Cup soccer final between Spain and the Netherlands, which is being played in South Africa, on Sunday, July 11, 2010
Spanish fans celebrate Spain's Andres Iniesta's goal as they watch a live broadcast at Recoletos' boulevard of the World Cup soccer final against the Netherlands, which is being played in South Africa, in Madrid on Sunday, July 11, 2010
Spanish fans celebrate the goal as they watch in Barcelona's Plaza Espana a live broadcast of the World Cup soccer final between Spain and the Netherlands, which is being played in South Africa, on Sunday, July 11, 2010
San Fermin revelers at Pamplona's Plaza del Castillo watch a live broadcast of the World Cup soccer final, which is being played in South Africa, after Spain's defeated the Netherlands 1-0 on Sunday, July 11, 2010
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, back to camera, hugs Sergio Busquets after the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa
Andres Iniesta of Spain scores the winning goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Andres Iniesta of Spain scores the winning goal past Maarten Stekelenburg of the Netherlands during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Spain's Andres Iniesta, right, scores a goal past Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, left, during the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa
Spain's Andres Iniesta, left, scores a goal past Netherlands' Rafael van der Vaart during the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa
Andres Iniesta of Spain celebrates scoring the opening goal late into extra time during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Andres Iniesta of Spain celebrates scoring the winning goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Netherlands' Joris Mathijsen, left, holds the ball as he argues with referee Howard Webb after Spain's Andres Iniesta scored during the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa
Referee Howard Webb of England, right, shows the red card to Netherlands' John Heitinga, left, during the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa
Arjen Robben of the Netherlands chases Referee Howard Webb during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
David Villa of Spain misses a goal scoring chance as goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg of the Netherlands dives and John Heitinga and Gregory Van Der Wiel attempt to block during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder, standing right, helps his teammate Nigel de Jong, left, stretch as Spain's Xavi Hernandez reacts during the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, left, makes a save above Netherlands' Robin van Persie, right, and Spain's Carles Puyol, bottom, during the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, right, warms up as his girlfriend, Spanish television broadcast journalist Sara Carbonero, foreground left, works from the sidelines before the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa
Girlfriend of Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands, Yolanthe Cabau van Kasbergen, attends the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Sylvie Van der Vaart, wife of Rafael Van der Vaart of the Netherlands enjoys the atmosphere ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Sylvie Van der Vaart, wife of Rafael Van der Vaart of the Netherlands enjoys the atmosphere ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Sylvie Van der Vaart (C), wife of Rafael Van der Vaart of the Netherlands enjoys the atmosphere ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
A Spain fan enjoys the atmopshere ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Football fans enjoy the atmosphere prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Netherlands fans enjoy the atmopshere ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Netherlands fans enjoy the atmopshere ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Girlfriend of Iker Casillas of Spain, Sara Carbonero, attends the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
A Spain fan enjoys the atmosphere prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Supporters of the Spanish team attend a public viewing of the World Cup final football match between Spain and Netherlands at Paseo Recoletos on July 11, 2010 in Madrid, Spain
A Spain fan enjoys the atmosphere prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
A Netherlands fan enjoys the atmopshere ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Netherlands fans enjoy the atmopshere ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
A Netherlands fan enjoys the atmosphere prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Colombian pop star Shakira, center stage, performs during the closing ceremony ahead of the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa
Supporters of the Spanish team attend a public viewing of the World Cup final football match between Spain and Netherlands at Paseo Recoletos on July 11, 2010 in Madrid, Spain
Soccer fans gather in Amsterdam's red light district, Netherlands, Sunday, July 11, 2010, ahead of the World Cup soccer final match between Netherlands and Spain
Netherlands fans enjoy the atmosphere prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa
Supporters of the Spanish team attend a public viewing of the World Cup final football match between Spain and Netherlands at Plaza Colon on July 11, 2010 in Madrid, Spain

Amid the rubble of what was supposed to be one of the great World Cup finals it was entirely, beautifully appropriate that it was Andres Iniesta of Spain who in the end came shining through.

He scored the winning goal late in extra time but much more than that he showed the world what it is to be a player who goes out to win with the best of his craft – and his heart.



Some of us gave the Dutch a chance of winning on their own touches of native, classic talent, which resided in men like Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, but it was more than they gave themselves.



Their battle plan was, unlike that of Spain, to spoil and harass and then strike out for any possibilities that might come their way. It might just have come off. Robben was twice foiled by the last line of Spanish resistance, Iker Casillas, and near the end the Dutch claimed that their quick, young subsititute Eljero Elia might have been awarded a penalty.



But had the Dutch edged their way into history it would have been no way to compensate for the failures of the teams of Cruyff and Krol. That generation failed, maybe, because they believed in themselves too much. The one we saw here last night didn't believe enough.



Throughout the tournament, Iniesta, the little man from La Mancha had supplied the creative force of the Spanish team who promised not only to win the tournament for the first time but lift the final alongside classic encounters involving men like Pele and Diego Maradona.



There was never any chance of that last undertaking being delivered, not once it was clear the Netherlands understood that they couldn't truly compete with the range and the touch of the Spanish game – and settled instead for a spoiling operation which brought them nine yellow cards, one red and an indictment saying that, not only had they failed to go one better than their great predecessors led by Johan Cruyff and Ruud Krol in 1974 and 1978, they had found an entirely different and infinitely more forgettable level.



English referee Howard Webb's nightmare unfolded from almost the first exchanges and, if he is likely to be criticised most severely for his failure to dismiss Manchester City's Nigel de Jong for felling Xabi Alonso with a wild kick, there is no question that his assignment was less an honour than a systematically applied ordeal.



For Spain, though, there was always something to reach out for and no one did it more relentlessly than Iniesta. The challenge was to confirm the rightness of their belief in football of beauty and pressure and endless work, and if there were times when the counter-attacking of the Netherlands threatened to unravel the project there was always the intelligent probing of Iniesta to redirect the effort, pick up again the momentum that was inevitably broken by the yellow cards and the Dutch knowledge that if the game was allowed to flow to its limits it would not be to their benefit.



Cruyff, all along, had said that being Dutch did not distract him from the central point that Spanish football was not so much a matter for narrow national pride but a wider acknowledgement that they had come to represent the game at its best. He added that those who tried to sneak a result against Spain, live off counter-attack, were always certainly inviting much suffering.



That's what the Netherlands ultimately brought on themselves – and it could scarcely have been more fitting that it should be Iniesta to perform the vital sword stroke. He had created so much of the momentum of this Spanish team, most memorably guiding them past an obdurate Paraguay team with one moment of unforgettable intuitive brilliance, and always fighting to reimpose the revolving pressure which finally carried them home here last night.



There might have been other heroes. Cesc Fabregas had one moment of near breakthrough when he came on as a substitute but the chance slipped by. David Villa had a chance when the ball came to him under the Dutch bar, but his glory, and an exclusive Golden Boot also flew away.



It meant that as the minutes fell away, as Sneijder who was so close to winning an extraordinary four major trophies in a few months found that his ability to influence any result was, maybe, finite, there was one man above all who seemed most destined to settle the affair.



Those who gave the Dutch a chance, before they unveiled their exercise in taking what might just be made available to them rather than claiming it for themselves, pointed out the persistent Spanish failure to win by more than the barest margins. All the beauty in the football world, and much of it was put on display by the Spanish in the semi-final against Germany last week, is no good if someone comes along and steals the prize.



That was again the possibility as such as Robben and Robin van Persie made breaks on the Spanish goal in the last few minutes. It was, one though, that Andreas Iniesta had a duty to banish. He did it in the way that he has made his trademark. He broke, he checked, and then he struck.



In that moment he carried off the trophy that had become his and his nation's due. It was the best part of a night, and a World Cup, that could have gone horribly wrong.



Source: Independent

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