Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time last night to win its first soccer World Cup title in a final that set a record for yellow cards.
Andres Iniesta scored in the 116th minute at Soccer City in Johannesburg after the match finished scoreless in regulation. The game featured 14 yellow cards, the most in a World Cup final. Nine of them went to the Dutch, who had defender John Heitinga sent off for his second caution.
Spain added the global title to the European Championship it won two years ago to become soccer’s first new world champion since France in 1998. The Spanish recovered from a loss in their opening game with Switzerland that had made it difficult for the team to make the knockout stages. Spain scored just 8 times in the tournament, beating the record of 11 goals held by 1994 champion Brazil and 1966 victor England.
“It was very intense, balanced and even,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque told journalists. “It was rough at times, but that’s part of football. After Switzerland I reminded my players what had brought us here.”
The match was overshadowed by two bomb blasts in the Ugandan capital of Kampala that killed at least 70 people. The attacks are suspected to have been carried out by Somali insurgents linked to al-Qaeda, Ugandan security officials said.
The Spanish had 56 percent of possession, even as the Dutch tried to hurry players into passes in an attempt to turn the ball over. The Dutch committed 28 fouls, compared with 19 for the new champions. Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said his team didn’t plan to foul its way through the match.
“It’s not our style to commit horrible fouls,” he said. “It’s not our kind of football. It was a World Cup final and people were tense. I think both sides, also the Spaniards, committed terrible fouls.”
By winning the first World Cup to be staged in Africa, Spain also becomes the only European nation to clinch soccer’s biggest prize away from its own continent.
Spain’s victory also took Europe 10-9 ahead of South America in overall World Cup wins and will keep the trophy on the same continent for the first time since 1962, when Brazil clinched back-to-back titles. Spain is the eighth country to win in the tournament’s 80-year history.
The Netherlands, which finished as runner-up in 1974 and 1978, had won all six games en route to the final and all eight qualifying matches.
“We did this to ourselves,” Van Marwijk said after the Netherlands became the first team to lose in three World Cup finals. “It’s very bitter in defeat, and very sad, but the best team won.”
The defeat of the Dutch left New Zealand as the 32-nation tournament’s only unbeaten team following three draws in the group stage, which saw defending champion Italy and 2006 runner-up France exit after finishing bottom of their pools.
Record five-time champion Brazil lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, while Diego Maradona’s Argentina was routed 4-0 by Germany at the same stage. The Germans, who beat Uruguay 3-2 two days ago to finish third, also put four goals past Australia and England.
The tournament will be remembered for the droning of vuvuzelas, the plastic horns played non-stop by supporters, as well as players’ complaints about the imperfect flight of the Adidas Jabulani ball. England’s Robert Green didn’t play again after allowing a U.S. shot to trickle into his net, and referees Koman Coulibaly, Jorge Larrionda and Roberto Rosetti were sent home before the final after errors that may have changed games.
South America got a record five teams into the last 16, only to have four crash out before the semifinals, leaving just Uruguay. Europe, which looked lost after former title holders France, England and Italy were eliminated, got both finalists.
Last night’s match began after an hour-long closing ceremony that culminated with an appearance from former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Chants of “Madiba, Madiba,” rang out as the 91-year-old Mandela, wearing a furry black hat, waved to the crowd of 84,490 as he was driven across the field on a buggy. He met with soccer officials including FIFA President Sepp Blatter before exiting through the players’ tunnel.
Fabio Cannavaro, who led Italy to the 2006 title, then carried the World Cup out onto the pitch before raising the trophy aloft in the center circle.
With the two teams waiting in the tunnel, a man wearing a T-shirt with an anti-racism slogan ran across the pitch and put what appeared to be a red hat on the World Cup. Several security men wrestled him to the ground and carried him off.
The first chance of the match came in the fifth minute and was the closest either team got to scoring in the opening 45 minutes. Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg dived to his right to stop a header from Sergio Ramos, who met Xavi’s free kick near the penalty spot.
Referee Howard Webb produced five yellow cards in the first half, more than the combined number of shots the teams had on target. Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas was forced to tip the ball over in the 33rd minute when Wesley Sneijder’s pass, played back for the goalkeeper to restart play, kicked up off the turf.
Webb brandished two more yellow cards in the first 12 minutes after the break, lifting the tally to seven, passing the previous record of six shown in the 1986 championship match.
The Netherlands had the first two scoring chances of the second half. Heitinga headed Sneijder’s free kick past the goalpost and Casillas saved from Arjen Robben with his legs when the Dutch forward was clear on goal.
Spain’s David Villa then had two shots that were blocked and Ramos headed over from 12 yards in the 77th minute. Robben went clear on goal six minutes later after holding off Carles Puyol and Casillas raced out to gather the ball, ensuring the teams were tied 0-0 after 90 minutes.
Cesc Fabregas had two chances for Spain in the first extra period before Heitinga was sent off for his second yellow card with 11 minutes remaining following a foul on Iniesta just outside the penalty area.
With the match heading for a penalty shootout, Iniesta won it for his team with four minutes remaining when he volleyed past Stekelenburg.