WORLD CUP: Spain 1, Netherlands 0 (Extra Time)
By JERÉ LONGMAN
JOHANNESBURG — Regulation had spilled into overtime of this fractious game Sunday. The clock was nearly exhausted, as were the players. Soon, the World Cup final would be decided by its harshest verdict, penalty kicks, and skill would give way to nerve and caprice.
[All four of Spain’s knockout-round wins were by 1-0 scores.]
A record 14 yellow cards and a red would be issued by the English referee Howard Webb. A potentially beautiful game between two elegant teams had turned nasty and destructive.
Finally, Spain prevailed, 1-0, over the Netherlands with great patience and an accustomed sense of drama in the 116th minute by the goal-scoring wing Andrés Iniesta, taking its first World Cup title, even if this one will be remembered more for meanness than splendor.
The Dutch intended to take Spain away from its graceful passing game. And they frequently did, sometimes with brutal intent. Still, Spain showed hardness of its own, becoming unnerved at times but never discouraged.
Finally, it prevailed for a fourth consecutive 1-0 victory, displaying resolve, endurance and a flair for white-knuckled theatrics while completing a remarkable turnaround. Spain, the 2008 European champion, became the first team to win a World Cup after losing its opening match, which La Furia Roja had done in stunning fashion to Switzerland.
“I can’t quite believe it yet,” the diminutive Iniesta said. “It is something absolutely incredible. I simply made a small contribution to a match that was very tough, very rough.”