The most brutal World Cup final of all time – 10 years on
It is 10 years to the day since the 2010 World Cup final, when Spain overcame Holland with Andres Iniesta netting the only goal of the match deep into extra-time.
But that doesn’t tell half the story. That the most iconic moment from the final is Nigel de Jong’s brutal challenge on Xabi Alonso, which paints a picture of what those 120 minutes in Johannesburg were like.
With De Jong and Mark van Bommel as midfield enforcers for the Dutch and Spain’s team built around the brilliant Barcelona team of the day, the final was a clash of styles as brain met brawn.
Premier League referee Howard Webb dished out a remarkable 14 yellow cards – with two going to Holland’s John Heitinga, who was sent off in extra-time – as Holland committed 28 of 46 fouls on the day.
There were plenty of chances too though, with the best falling to the Dutch and most memorably Arjen Robben, before Iniesta won the day.
Here, Sportsmail takes you back through the 2010 World Cup final, with reflections from De Jong, Webb, Robben, Iniesta and more.
5 minutes: Holland goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg saves from Spain defender Sergio Ramos in the game’s first chance.
15 minutes: With Spain dominating the early proceedings, Robin van Persie receives the first booking of the match for his second foul, taking out Joan Capdevila after earlier going in late on Pedro.
17 minutes: Spain show they won’t back down from the physical challenge as experienced defender Carles Puyol is booked for fouling Arjen Robben.
22 minutes: Dutch bad boy Mark van Bommel is booked next for a nasty late tackle on Spain playmaker Xavi – his former Barcelona team-mate. Spain players want a red but Van Bommel was having none of it, instead criticising Webb after the match: ‘Everyone can see that he clearly affected the final.’
24 minutes: Ramos makes it 2-2 in bookings after a foul on Dirk Kuyt.
28 minutes: The first major incident of the match and arguably its most iconic moment as Nigel de Jong plants his studs into Xabi Alonso’s chest challenging for a high ball. Webb only shows a yellow card but has since admitted it should have been red: ‘Having seen it again from my armchair several times in slow motion and from different angles I can see that it was a red-card offence.’ De Jong has always protested his innocence. ‘I just wanted to play the ball – that was my only focus,’ he said. ‘I didn’t see Alonso coming because he was on my blind side. We’ve seen each other but we’ve never spoken about that moment – it’s just a moment in football history. Maybe one day we’ll see each other, have a beer and laugh about it. Ultimately, he won the game. I think he had the last laugh.’
37 minutes: Holland’s first chance of the match as a smart corner routine leaves Joris Mathijsen with a clear shot on goal inside the box. Unfortunately for the Dutch he produces the sort of finish you’d expect from a centre back – an air-shot.
42 minutes: Even Holland’s most creative player is at it. A 50-50 sees Wesley Sneijder plant his studs on Sergio Busquets’ thigh. Webb awards a free-kick but keeps his card in his pocket, despite replays suggesting a certain yellow card.
55 minutes: After a cagey start to the second half, Dutch captain Van Bronckhorst gets the card count flowing again with a foul on Ramos.
56 minutes: Just a minute later, John Heitinga is harshly booked for fouling David Villa. That’s seven bookings now and five for Holland.
62 minutes: Arjen Robben, by far Holland’s best player so far, is in on goal after a brilliant throughball from Sneijder. Baring down on Iker Casillas running right through the middle of the pitch, the Spain keeper comes out to narrow the angle and Robben opens his body to slot it to the keeper’s right with his favoured left foot. Casillas is already on his way down going the other way, but sticks out his right leg to deflect the ball just wide of the post and Spain breathe a huge sigh of relief. ‘It hurts to miss such a chance,’ reflected Robben before the two sides met again at the 2014 World Cup. ‘It is part of sport, just a moment, a snapshot… But it will be part of me and part of my career for all of my life.’
67 minutes: Booking No 9 as Spain left back Joan Capdevila is carded for tripping Van Persie.
70 minutes: Now it’s Spain’s turn to rue a missed opportunity as Villa has a close-range effort deflected over by Gregory van der Wiel. Heitinga completely missed Jesus Navas’ cross to leave the striker with what looked like a tap-in, but Stekelenburg and Van der Wiel were quick to close him down.
77 minutes: The missed chances are racking up for Spain now as Ramos heads over from eight yards out. Totally unmarked from a corner, he should at the very least have made the keeper make a save.
83 minutes: Spanish hearts are in mouths again as Robben robs Puyol and is through one-on-one for a second time – but this time the ball is smothered by Casillas as the winger tries to go around him. A desperate Puyol did just enough to put off Robben without committing a blatant foul but the Dutchman furiously appeals, earning himself a booking from Webb. He looked as much frustrated with himself, knowing he could have gone down, or better still slotted home either of his two big chances.
90+3 minutes: Webb blows the whistle and we’ll have extra-time after 10 bookings in normal time and several missed chances – none more significant than Robben’s first.
92 minutes: Spain appeal for a penalty as Xavi goes down like a sack of spuds in the box. The replay shows Heitinga clipped his heels but it looked accidental. Falls into the ‘seen them given’ category.
95 minutes: Spain substitute Cesc Fabregas is sent through one-on-one but Stekelenburg spreads himself well and saves with his leg to his left.
96 minutes: A big chance for Mathijsen comes and goes in an instant as he heads over from six yards out with Casillas in no-man’s land having come off his line at a corner. On second viewing Ramos did just enough to put him off, but it’s the biggest chance of the match after Robben’s first miss. ‘Sometimes it makes he feel sick that we got so close to winning the World Cup,’ reflected Mathijsen in 2014. ‘I don’t yet have the feeling of pride when I look back at it.’
109 minutes: Having gone nearly half an hour without booking anyone, Webb brandishes his most significant yellow of the match as Heitinga pulls back Iniesta with the Spaniard about to burst into the box. It’s the defender’s second yellow and Holland are down to 10 men.
111 minutes: Van der Wiel is booked this time, with Iniesta again the man fouled.
116 minutes: SPAIN 1-0 HOLLAND – we finally have a goal! Iniesta’s influence had been growing in extra-time, especially with Holland down to 10 men, and Spain make the extra man count. Holland sub Rafael van der Vaart inexplicably leaves Iniesta unmarked by rushing out of the line with Fabregas on the ball and he’s able to slot Iniesta in. Iniesta takes one touch to settle and fires across Stekelenburg and into the bottom corner. The Barcelona star tears off his shirt in celebration to reveal a message of tribute for his friend Dani Jarque, the Espanyol defender who tragically died from a heart attack aged just 26. ‘My friend Dani Jarque died in August 2009, which really put me in such a fragile situation that I needed professional help,’ Iniesta reflected. ‘It was certainly the hardest phase of my life… the goal was the beginning of the improvement.’ Webb had no sympathy though, booking Iniesta for his celebration.
118 minutes: Mathijsen, guilty of missing two big chances, is booked for dissent.
121 minutes: Xavi is booked for time-wasting, making it 14 yellow cards in total.
FULL-TIME: Webb ends a brutal final and Spain win the World Cup for the first time
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