Tue, Jul 13, 2010 - Page 20 News List

2010 FIFA WORLD CUP: FINAL: Iniesta strikes late to win the World Cup for Spain

VIVA ESPANA: Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk admitted Spain deserved their win, although he could only reflect on what might have been had Robben taken his chances

AFP , JOHANNESBURG

Spain’s Xabi Alonso, left, is kicked in the chest by Nigel de Jong of the Netherlands as they battle for the ball during the World Cup final at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque saluted his nation’s first World Cup triumph as deserved reward for their commitment to playing the “Beautiful Game.”

Andres Iniesta’s 116th-minute strike ensured the European Champions finally overcame the Netherlands in a final that was enthralling, but partially disfigured by the intimidating tactics employed by the Dutch as they attempted to knock their opponents out of their elegant stride.

“Today is a reward for beautiful football,” Del Bosque said. “Spain, the country, deserves this triumph. This goes beyond sport. We have to celebrate and are delighted to be able to offer this victory to all the people of Spain.”

The Spanish coach graciously side-stepped questions about the tactics deployed by the Dutch, who had centerback Johnny Heitinga sent off and seven other players booked by English referee Howard Webb.

“I’m here to speak about the beautiful things of football,” he said. “Holland played a good game. It was an even, balanced match. Yes, it was rough at times, but that is part of football.”

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk defended his players’ approach, which resulted in him being accused of betraying the legacy of great Dutch sides of the past.

“We knew that we would really have to have a top day to beat Spain and tactically we did a good job. For the major part of the match we were in a good position,” Marwijk said.

Marwijk accepted that the the high card count — Spain also had five players booked — was “regrettable for a final.”

“It is not our style, but then again you play a match to win,” he said. “It is a World Cup final and there is a lot of emotion — you saw that at the end of the match. I would have loved to win the match, even with not so beautiful football.”

Had it gone to penalties, that might have happened. As it was, Iniesta was set free by substitute Cesc Fabregas’ pass and hammered in an unstoppable shot to ring the starting bell for the mother of all fiestas.

It was a painful blow for a Dutch side that had hoped to eradicate memories of the country’s defeats in the 1974 and 1978 finals.

“To lose a final with four minutes to go, it leaves you with a very bitter feeling,” van Marwijk said. “Even with 10 men, I thought it would be possible to get to penalties.”

Marwijk admitted, however, that Spain had deserved their victory over the 120 minutes, although he could only reflect on what might have been had Arjen Robben taken either of the two great chances he had in the second half.

On the first, the Bayern Munich winger was denied by the boot of goalkeeper Iker Casillas. On the second, he was impeded by Carles Puyol, who had already been booked and it might easily have resulted in a red card if Webb had had a better view of the challenge.

“I’m not someone to look back on the what the referee did. I think the best team usually wins the match, but if you look at the second chance of Robben, the referee should give Puyol a second yellow card, which would have meant him being sent off,” the Dutch coach said. “It was a crucial moment just before the end of the 90 minutes. It is very bitter, but that is sport. It is harsh and as I said, Spain were the better team.”

Former South African president Nelson Mandela’s beaming pre-match appearance ensured the only glum face before kickoff belonged to Fernando Torres, consigned to the bench until the second period of extra-time as Spain opted to keep David Villa as the central striker.

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