The Cup Running Over

July 11, 2010 5:01 PM

Instant Final Review: Spain Wins A Stinker in Overtime

SCORE:  Spain 1, Netherlands 0 (aet). This wasn't "the beautiful game," in what may be the understatement of the tournament. Certainly in the running, along with 1994, for the worst final ever. And to think that Nelson Mandela was made to sit through it.

THE STORY LINE: The Guardian's Scott Murray called it a "filthfest." It was a good game if you like lots of cards and lots of fouls (38 in the first 90 minutes), which means lots of stoppage. But the truth is that we haven't had a good final since 1986 (which was also the last final in which both teams scored from open play). There's so much at stake in these final contests that both teams play in complete fear of making a mistake. Nothing ventured, nothing lost.

TURNING POINT: The goal by Spain's Andres Iniesta, finally!, in the 116th minute, which followed the sending-off of Dutch defender Johnny Heitinga a short time earlier. Arjen Robben missed two breakaways in the second half, thanks to alert goalkeeping by Iker Casillas and Spain missed some decent chances later. But when the score ends 0-0 after 90 minutes, there's a strong empirical case to be made that there were no turning points until the goal.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Both keepers played well -- Casillas and Holland's Maarten Steklenburg. Few others did. Paul, the psychic octopus deserves mention too.  He called it for Spain, keeping his perfect record intact. Oh wait, he's been given a yellow card by Howard Webb . . . .

BIGGEST SURPRISE: That referee Howard Webb didn't run out of space on his pad, writing down yellow-carded names. Speaking of which, how many cards does the ref bring to a game? Does every player get the same yellow card, or does each get a separate one?

BIGGEST NO-SHOW: Clean play. Sharp play. Incisive play. But you knew that already. Revenge of the altitude and too many games.

KEY STAT: We ended with 13 yellows -- a World Cup finals record by a mile -- eight for Holland, five for Spain, with a 14th (unofficially) for the Dutch leading to the red that sent off Heitinga.

WHAT IT MEANS: Spain, the great underachiever, finally achieves. And Holland is still not only the best team never to win a Cup. It's now the most carded team in the final never to win a Cup.


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