The Greatest Team In The World – Day 31 Round-Up

Originally posted on World Cup Wonder.

So, the final day has arrived, and it is with great sadness that we don’t see Argentina in the final. Still, it’s going to be a top game tonight. I’m going to ‘live’ blog – post updates minute-by-minute on this section. My Twitter feed will be chocca with updates, so I will leave all of this on here until the final whistle, then post it live. Happy days.

Pre-Match: We’re watching the BBC coverage tonight – mainly because its been the best the last four weeks. Discussing Howard Webb, tonight’s ENGLISH referee. I’ve rated him as the world’s best ref for the last 3 years, so great to see him finally earn that reward. Hansen and Shearer both slagging him off – but let’s be honest, at least Howie has the balls to get out there and be at a World Cup final. More than they have.

Pre-Match: Now they’re showing a small video about the impact on Africans. It just makes you realise how much of a difference the last month of football will make to the nation. Yes, we’ve enjoyed it for the last 31 days, but for the citizens of South Africa, it means so much more, and the fact that they now have the knowledge that they can do things like this – who knows just how much good this has done for them?!

Pre-Match: They’re talking about Paul the Octopus. Forget Pauly. This morning, at cricket, the under-12’s played the Spain vs. Holland game. Spain won, by a good 50 runs. So let’s see how good a predictor this lot are.

Pre-Match: Someone has dropped orange paint bombs in Amsterdam. 250,000 people in the city centre. Its a stunning sight. And I really bloody wish I was there.

Pre-Match: We’re now discussing what tonight’s game actually means for the different countries involved. I think that, whoever wins, could very well be labelled as the greatest team of the 21st century. Bar Brazil at the turn of the millennium, of course.

Pre-Match: 15 minutes to go. We’re getting a little excited back here. Imagine if we were in South Africa. Its an incredible place to look at on the telly, imagine what it’d be like to actually be there?!

Pre-Match: Teams exiting the tunnel now, and joining the cauldron that is Soccer City. Great to see old Webby lead them out – feel like a really creepy proud dad.

Pre-Match: I joined in for the Netherlands’ national anthem. I feel like an honorary Dutchman tonight.

TEAMS: Netherlands: Maarten Stekelenburg; Gregory van der Wiel, John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Giovanni van Bronckhorst; Dirk Kuyt, Mark van Bommel, Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong, Arjen Robben; Robin van Persie
Spain: Iker Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevila; Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets; Pedro, David Villa

Kick-Off: Here we go then. Holland kick us off.

1 min: And we see the first dive of the game. Robin van Persie slides in, Sergio Busquets goes down like a ton of bricks, before jumping up. Cheatin’ bastard.

4mins: Netherlands in the classic orange strip, Spain in navy blue. Free kick for Spain leads to a great header from Sergio Ramos, who forces Stekelenburg into a great save.

6 mins: The thunderous drive of vuvuzelas starts creating a harmonious ‘beat’. What a great sound.

9 mins: Spain certainly started the brighter team, but Holland gain their first shot, which calms them down a wee bit. Gonna be a top game, if this is anything to go by.

11 mins: Spain walk into the penalty box, and Sergio Ramos goes straight past Dirk Kuyt and makes John Heitinga make a ‘goal line’ clearance. David Villa then puts the ball into the side netting from the resulting corner. Shaky start from Holland.

15 mins: First booking of the game goes to van Persie. Absolutely clatters into Joan Capdevilla, and then moans that he gets a yellow.

16 mins: As Guy Mowbray says, 1-1. Carles Puyol gets a booking after chopping down Arjen Robben from behind. Robben certainly makes the most of it, but it definitely warranted Howard Webb stamping his authority on the game.

17 mins: From the free kick where that booking occurred, Wesley Sneijder fires in a free kick from 30 yards that falls straight into the arms of Iker Casillas. Should calm both the Spanish captain, and the Dutch team.

20 mins: Great fact there. Bert van Marwijk, the Dutch coach, has a 100% competitive game record since taking charge of the team two years ago. Played 14, won 14.

22 mins: Mark Van Bommel now goes into Webb’s book after an absolutely horrific tackle on Andres Iniesta. That kinda thing can lead to the police getting involved for GBH over here.

23 mins: Okay Howard, book away now. Number four arrives thanks to Dirk Kuyt stepping in and getting Sergio Ramos booked for a nothing tackle. 3-1 I believe now.

28 mins: They’ve taken their time, but I think Holland have begun to settle into the game. Beginning to play the flowing football we know and love.

29 mins: A horrifically high boot from Nigel de Jong shoves into the chest of Xabi Alonso. Howard Webb gives him a yellow, but that’s a straight red in my book. Awful tackle.

32 mins: I actually can’t wait until this is my proper job. This kind of commentary is what I want to do for my life.

34 mins: Massive miscue from Iker Casillas leads to a Dutch corner, from absolutely nothing. Holland play it straight back to him. Now that’s gamesmanship. I like that. Holland for the win.

37 mins: A cleverly worked corner kick comes straight to Joris Mathijsen in open space, who completely miskicksmiskicks it. He has his face in his hands. Rightfully so. I could have scored that.

40 mins: Apparently we had a pitch invader at the beginning of the game. Yes, Jimmy Jump returns. What a guy. But check this picture out. Now thats how to do your job.

42 mins: Jesus. Sneijder and Busquets go for the same ball, and it looks like a car crash. Busquets rolls a mile, Sneijder’s momentum takes him a good 10 yards. He kicks his in the knodgers. That will be sore in the morning.

45 mins: Think the Netherlands are beginning to get a little frustrated at how broken up the play is. Can’t seem to find that flow as they did a little earlier in the half. Spain beginning to up the tempo mind you.

45+1 mins: Holland play pinball in the Spanish box, and Robben forces a great save from Casillas. Great way to finish off the half, and make van Marwijk’s half-time team talk a little easier.

HALF TIME: NETHERLANDS 0-0 SPAIN
Spain the brighter attacking team, but I’d say its very close to being 50:50 in terms of play. Both played extremely well, but it’s been a bit tough for both to completely get into the game. Holland played quite dirty, but Spain begun to realise that if they roll around a bit, they might force Webby’s hand into his pocket. Holland should certainly be down to 10 men, but Spain now have to use their attacking advantage to make them pay in the second half. 0-0 half time, but it won’t be long before a goal. Time for a cuppa, see you in 15.

46 mins: And we’re back. 0-0, all the players refreshed. Let’s see what happens now.

47 mins: End to end in 30 seconds. Holland have a shot, Spain have a shot. Holland counter, Spain counter. Is this how it will all go now? Early corner for Spain thanks to all this play.

48 mins: Great corner flicked on by Puyol, and another air shot from Capdevilla leads to a Dutch throw. Puyol is just class in the air.

49 mins: Its all going on now. Spain have a penalty appeal turned down. Mainly from the fans, and it was a shoulder-to-shoulder type incident, but still proves how well they’ve turned out after the break.

52 mins: Robben creates the first proper Dutch chance of the half, but Casillas goes down to his left hand side to cover his post.

54 mins: Giovanni van Bronckhorst, the Dutch captain, gets booked for a very late challenge on Sergio Ramos. Now gives Spain a dangerous free kick, which Xavi puts just over the bar.

56 mins: David Villa goes down like a sack of spuds after a really horrible tackle from John Heitinga. Howard Webb didn’t see it, but the linesman spotted it, and gives him the 5th Dutch yellow card of the game.

59 mins: Wesley Sneijder heads the ball across the Spanish net and at the same time, apparently hauls down Ramos. He goes down in a bundle, and Spain get a free kick. Bad decision that. Boos beginning to ring out towards Howie.

60 mins SUBSTITUTION: Spain bring off Pedro, and throw on Jesus Navas, the speedy winger. First throw of the dice.

62 mins: Arjen Robben played straight through and slices the Spanish defence straight open. One-on-one with Casillas, and the keeper saves with his feet. First real chance we’ve had.

65 mins: Holland have started to play man-to-man marking – and its working. The pressure they’re putting on the Spanish when they attack is immense. Top stuff.

66 mins: And the pressure continues. Spain weave their way into the Dutch box, and somehow, the Netherlands manage to scramble it to Stekelenburg who gets rid. Its tense stuff.

67 mins: And as Robin van Persie breaks, Joan Capdevilla clips his heels and receives a booking for his troubles. 5-3 I believe now.

69 mins: How the hell did that stay out?! Navas crosses the ball to Villa, who is in a mile of space. He lashes it at goal, but John Heitinga throws a foot at it, and it fires over the ball. That’s amazing defending.

70 mins SUBSTITUTION: Dirk Kuyt makes way for Eljero Elia, who will inject some pace into the team. Fresh legs on, so hopefully a bit of speed now.

73 mins: Howard Webb plays advantage to Spain, but Iniesta gives the ball away, and Howie pulls the play back. Spain have another free kick in another dangerous position. David Villa hangs over it, and from 26 metres, he puts it well wide of the far post.

76 mins: Another effort from David Villa that he puts well over the bar. A lot of Spanish passing leads to a great cross, and he puts it into the crowd.

77 mins: Wow. Corner from Spain, and Sergio Ramos leaps a good foot above anyone else, to rifle it right over the bar. That was THE chance.

81 mins: Spain continue this spell of possession, and Vicente del Bosque, the Spanish manager, is seen pointing to his eyes, telling the players to concentrate. His message got through to the Dutch, who stop Iniesta in the box with a great tackle from Sneijder. Player of the tournament.

83 mins: Arjen Robben again finds himself through into the box, but Casillas takes the ball from his feet. He appeals for a free kick from an earlier run, but Webb wants to hear none of it. Replays show Puyol was a bit rough, but his persistence gains him a yellow card for abusive language.

86 mins SUBSTITUTION: Cesc Fabregas finally makes it onto the pitch to replace Xabi Alonso. An attacking change that also adds some stability to the team.

89 mins: Robin van Persie shoulda been booked there. Plays on after the whistle blown plenty of times, and he still hits the post. Just not his day really.

90 mins: 3 minutes of added time. It’s Hero O’Clock.

90+3 mins: Wesley Sneijder takes a 60-yard shot, but could have played Robben through. That will be that.

FULL TIME: NETHERLANDS 0-0 SPAIN
Well, that was a bit boring, if I’m honest. Certainly not what we expected. But, we still have half an hour to go, and its the first time a final has finished 0-0 since 1994. Been enjoyable, and I think the wingers for both teams will be the decider for whoever wins it. Loo break I think, seeing as we have 5 minutes till we start all over again!

91 mins: Well, it was inevitable wasn’t it? Spain kick us off for the next half hour – 6 Dutch yellow cards, and 3 Spanish. One for each should have been red. Hey ho.

92 mins: Xavi tries to claim a penalty, as does Fabregas and Iniesta – in separate incidents. Howard Webb waves them all away, and rightfully so. Great decision that.

95 mins: Top, top save. Fabregas played through, and decides to go alone. Takes a touch, then hits it, and Marten Stekelenburg gets big and kicks it away.

96 mins: Then, at the other end, Fabregas blocks off Casillas, and Mathijsen heads the ball backwards just over the bar. Madness. Total madness.

99 mins: Andres Iniesta goes through this time, but tries to shuffle it onto his right foot, and van Bronckhorst goes across to block him off.

100 mins SUBSTITUTION: Nigel de Jong goes off and Rafael van der Vaart comes on – they’re going to attack now the Dutch.

101 mins: Completely end-to-end. The game is alive. Jesus Navas strikes it, and the defenders get a foot to it and deflect it into the side netting. Great stop.

104 mins: Fabregas redeems himself, and slices his way through five Dutch defenders before putting the ball just wide of Stekelenburg’s left post.

105 mins SUBSTITUTION: Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who retires as of this evening, comes off to great applause, and is replaced by Edson Braafheid.

HALF TIME EXTRA TIME: NETHERLANDS 0-0 SPAIN
Not amazing, but the best spell of play we’ve seen. End to end, and become a lot more open, but seems like both managers are preparing for penalties.

HALF TIME SUBSTITUTION: Of course, it had to happen. Fernando Torres comes on for the last 15 minutes, and replaces talisman David Villa.

108 mins: The Dutch spring into life, and pass the ball all the way down the pitch, until Elia just takes it out on his cross. That’s good stuff.

109 mins RED CARD: John Heitinga gets sent off for a second bookable offence – last man, and he drags back Iniesta. Free kick right on the edge of the box, so now its even more dangerous than beforehand. He skies it again, and it looks as if Van Bommel has dropped into the centre back role.

111 mins: It’s Gregory van der Wiel’s turn for a yellow now, after a pull back on Iniesta. Seven cards to Holland now. Resulting free kick needs a big punch from the keeper.

113 mins: Webby’s bottled it. Arjen Robben kicks the ball away, and Howard warns him. Not good.

115 mins: Holland now gain a free kick in quite a promising position – 6 in the Spanish wall. Absolutely shocking decision – two touches from Spanish players before going out, and its a goal kick….

116 mins GOAL: NETHERLANDS 0-1 SPAIN (ANDRES INIESTA)
A break from Spain after a foul that wasn’t spotted in the Spanish box, and Fabregas is the key man. Plays a ball across to Iniesta, who takes one touch and smashes it into the bottom corner. Only takes a second to become a hero.

116 mins: Joris Mathijsen is booked for more abusive language, and Iniesta gets booked for taking his shirt off in his celebration. This is madness.

120+1 mins: Just to keep his tally up, Xavi is booked for kicking the ball away. Idiot.

FULL TIME EXTRA TIME: NETHERLANDS 0-1 SPAIN
Oh dear. Well, top stuff from Spain. They are indeed the world champions, and will be the number one ranked team in the world come Wednesday. European Champions, and now World Champions. They do deserve it overall, but Holland had played better football. I guess now we just wait for the presentations. What a tournament.

It seemed that every attack, free kick or major incident involved Iniesta, so it was dangerous stuff, but it’s Iker Casillas who will be splashed on the front of every paper tomorrow, as he will hold the trophy aloft. But it wouldn’t be the Spanish if they weren’t modest. They already have the star embroidered onto special kits to wear for the presentation.

Holland look completely deflated going up to collect the third runners up medals of the country’s history – never won the tournament. Must be a horrible feeling, especially when you have to walk past the Spanish once they have collected their silver medals. Not nice.

But here come Spain. I really didn’t want them to win – I mean, I predicted they’d be out come the semis. But they have only scored 8 goals this tournament, which shows actually how poor the attacks have been, or how good the defence has been – whichever floats your boat. But here comes Casillas to give the trophy. Happy days.

What an absolutely incredible tournament. It’s hard to put into words and describe how truly mesmerising the last month has been. 31 days of the best football played. Maybe not the greatest World Cup ever in terms of football, but in terms of the way this tournament has touched and changed lives, made people smile, and give people a reason to want to be there, it really is.

We’ve seen tears of joy, tears of sadness. We’ve watched the African nations fall, one by one, and with a continent backing Ghana, they believed it was possible. No-one expected what we gained as a global community – we all now have realised how little can lead to how much difference we can make to so many.

We had incredible performances from teams, from players, from fans, and from the South African nation. Expectations led to the ideas of gun crime, rape, theft, and murder. But there has been nothing of the sort – all we gained was incredible experiences that will never be forgotten.

31 teams leave South Africa with memories and thoughts of how wonderful a tournament this has been. One receives a legacy – South Africa. And that legacy will be there for generations to come, and that legacy will always lead back to the same point – the 2010 World Cup, that changed the face of a nation.

But, Spain have that trophy for four years, until Brazil 2014. And hopefully, I’ll be there. But I’ll still be blogging – more than like on Day Dedication (which is back tomorrow, by the way. Just to get my plug in there). Just keep an eye out. Big thank you to the BBC and ITV for brilliant coverage, info and photos, all of which have ended up in the blog. Same goes to Infostrada and The Guardian, and Sky Sports for their breaking news. Top stuff.

Spain are the World Champions. What a way to finish the greatest show on Earth.

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