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Spain wins World Cup final, makes history with Iniesta extratime goal

Spain wins World Cup final in an ugly game filled with hard fouls and cynical dives. Dutch stars Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder failed to have the big match they needed to beat the pre-tournament favorites.

By Tom HenniganCorrespondent / July 11, 2010

Spain's Andres Iniesta, right, scores a goal during the World Cup final soccer match between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday. Spain beats the Netherlands, 1-0, in extra time to capture the World Cup for the first time.

Luca Bruno/AP Photo

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Spain wins the World Cup, finally claiming a place among the elite of world soccer after beating the Netherlands by a single goal deep in extra-time to lift a first World Cup trophy to go with their European Championship trophy of two years ago.

The victory confirms them as the best team in the world in recent times, but in truth, they rarely touched the heights this month and today there was no repeat of the second half charge against Germany in the semifinal. The passing was not as slick and there was little of the authority that we have become accustomed to with Spain.

They become the lowest scoring champions in the competition’s history following four 1-0 victories during their progress through a tournament that only flickered into life and fell far short of what the football hype machine promised.

The man who won it for them was the best player on the field, Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta. He more than anyone else constantly sought the ball and, amid the rush, had the presence of mind to take up intelligent positions in space.

He had wasted two good chances before, but with just four minutes of extra time left, he was once again free, this time on the edge of the Dutch box, where Cesc Fabregas slipped him the ball. His first touch saw it spin up and then the midfielder hammered it past the excellent Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg to finally break the deadlock.

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Dirty Dutch play

The Dutch were aggrieved, claiming a foul on the substitute Eljero Elia in the build-up, but few outside of Holland will have much sympathy for them. The Oranje were, in a word, filthy, and should have had one, maybe two players expelled before half time.

They came out hard, as if to beat the Spanish into submission and rattle them into poor play and overreaction as they had done to Brazil in the quarterfinals.

Early on, Dutch midfield bouncer Mark van Bommel escaped expulsion for a dirty, cynical foul that surprised no one who has followed his progress through the tournament as destroyer.

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