A promised feast of football turned out more like a mixed serving of tapas as nervous stunted play took over from the stylish playmaking everyone had expected. Thirteen yellow cards and a sending off says it all but Spain have proved over the last two years to be easily the best team around. All the fine print will be forgotten tonight, the fire crackers and bangers are popping along with the corks here in Tenerife and the car horns will be blasting into the early hours.
Holland 0 , Spain 1
Spain started strongly with Villa pushing to break his country’s all time scoring record. Xavi was busy too with a floated free kick that Ramos bravely got a head too but Stekelenburg turned it aside. Holland seemed overawed but Kuyt decided to try his luck after Busquets lost the ball in midfield, nice idea but no power to threaten Casillas in goal. the best chance of the half fell to Ramos, he looked odds on from the right only to see Heitinga clear his shot.
The game became ragged with both sides failing to produce their trademark passing style and the tackles became loose and niggly as English ref Howard Webb gave his yellow cards an airing. The ref didn’t have a clear view of the worst challenge, De Jong went in on Alonso with his foot high and studded him in the chest, it should have been a sending off. Sneijder looked dangerous from free kicks but Casillas was equal to him, the keeper was caught napping though when he miss judged a back pass and failed to stop it going out for a corner. Robben and Sneijder both tested the Spain defence down the right and the lively Pedro managed to shake off four markers before shooting wide of the goal. Robben nearly sneaked in just before the break with a low shot that was heading for the corner of the net before Casillas got a hand to it.
The second half was little better, Puyol opened with a good header down that fell just behind the feet of Capdevila in a great scoring position. Sneijder broke for Holland but Ramos made a vital tackle to stop him in his tracks. Robben was looking threatening and had the clearest chance going one on one with Casillas but waiting too long and Casillas stuck a foot out to deny him. Navas had come on for Pedro and he breathed some life into Spain but Villa was not on finishing form. Ramos was unmarked when he had a free header but sent it over the bar. Extra time was calling Iniesta looked on for goal but a perfect tackle by Sneijder cleared the danger.
So extra time and Zavi and Heitinga clashed in the Holland penalty area but despitr claims for a spot kick, ref Webb said no. Van Bronkhorst in his final game showed his defensive qualities with a supreme tackle on Iniesta and a deflection of a Navas shot before going off to begin his retirement. Fabregas could have nicked the lead, this time it was the Dutch keeper to the rescue saving with his legs.
Villa gave way for Torres at the start of the final 15 minutes in a last throw of the dice. There was always going to be at least one sending off and Heitinga was the man for Holland for pulling back Iniesta but Fabregas wasted the free kick putting it over the bar. Robben, already on a yellow could have gone off as well for dissent after putting the ball in the net after being called offside. Iniesta saved us the lottery of penalties nipping in from a Fabregas pass and hooking the ball into the Holland net with just 2 minutes left on the clock. The hero was nearly burried under an avalanche of bodies as the Spain bench emptied and started to celebrate.