Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Goals were never going to be plentiful in this World Cup final

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
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
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
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

Caution has been the underlying theme of this World Cup. In that sense, the finals got the final it deserved, if not the excellent and joyous hosts.

There have been some rivetting matches, but they have usually occurred when one team has been chasing a goal, either because they needed to win the match, or because their opponents had scored early.





This applied to most games involving these protagonists too. That the Dutch have not been playing "total football" has been much debated. They have fielded a trio of flair players in Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie, but the latter is usually isolated and the rest are toilers.



Spain, meanwhile, may have passed the ball prettily among themselves but their goal threat has been very limited. Seven goals in six matches leading into the final, one of them an own goal, made that very clear.



Thus we got exactly what should have been expected: Xavi, Andres Iniesta and company rotating possession in front of a wall of orange defenders. Overrun in the opening minutes, in part due to their nervous inability to keep possession, the Dutch swiftly withdrew everyone but Van Persie, leaving five across the midfield, holding a line 15 yards inside their own half, and a back four pushed up 10 yards outside the penalty area. Space was at such a premium and even the likes of Xavi found it impossible to find a yard to work in, or a way through. It was Internazionale against Barcelona all over again.



If only Sergio Ramos's third-minute header had gone in. Because what this game desperately needed was an early Spanish goal. That would have forced the Dutch to come out and play.



Instead, set- pieces became the most likely source of goals, but the Spanish are not a big side, with only Ramos, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique likely to win a header. And none of them, despite Puyol's semi-final winner, are exactly Miroslav Klose in the air. Despite the number of free-kicks the Dutch conceded, the European champions looked even less likely to score with a direct shot.



Thus, after an hour's stalemate, Vicente del Bosque decided to add Jesus Navas to the mix, a flying winger, one who might get around the Dutch where the Spanish could not go through them. The move almost paid quick dividends but John Heitinga just managed to redeem himself after letting Navas's cross reach David Villa.



The Dutch, however, should have been ahead by then. The special ingredient in their dour mix of kick and cover was Robben. As in previous matches, the moment came when Sneijder took possession in midfield, spotted Robben on his radar, and released him over the top. Unlike against Slovakia, Robben did not score, neither then nor later.



Those reprieves did not stop Spain playing their game. Not much does. Remember the Champions League tie at Stamford Bridge, when Iniesta scored in the dying seconds? They had passed the ball then. As the clock wore on, Dutch legs inevitably wore out. As gaps began to appear, Del Bosque replaced Xabi Alonso with Cesc Fabregas to exploit them. With the Dutch belatedly reduced to 10 men after Heitinga's departure, more holes appeared. Iniesta found one of them, and Fabregas found him. No one in Spain will care about the 115 minutes that went before, and no one anywhere else is likely to remember them.



Source: Independent

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