Spain has beaten the Netherlands 1-0 to win the World Cup for the first time in the country’s history, with a shot that rocketed into the net in the final minutes of extra time.
Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta scored the winning goal 116 minutes into play.
Hundreds of millions of people were expected to watch the match in South Africa, as the gritty Netherlands’ squad battled the flashy Spaniards for soccer supremacy.
It was a rough and dirty game, setting the record for most yellow cards handed out in a final. The Dutch got eight, while Spain got five. The previous record was six, in the 1986 final between Argentina and West Germany.
Ranked third in the world, Spain was considered the favourite and also won the 2008 European Cup. Still, the Netherlands had shown promise after losing consecutive finals in 1974 and 1978.
After a shocking loss to Switzerland to open the tournament, Spain rebounded to overwhelm opponents with the quick-passing and long possessions that make up its classic “Tika Taka” style of play.
The Netherlands, meanwhile, played a solid, all-around game to reach the final without losing a match.
Both teams had a tournament top-scorer: Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder and Spanish striker David Villa were tied going in to the final for the scoring lead with five goals each.
Both are gunning for the Golden Boot award, which is awarded to the tournament’s top scorer.
Spain has now lived up to its pre-tournament hype, and will take home the 18-carat-gold trophy.
“I am sure the Spanish can win any game because they are dominant and it’s hard to contain their attack. They have shown they can beat anyone,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said after his team’s semifinal loss.
But after his team fell to the Netherlands in the semifinals, Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said the Dutch, “play some beautiful football.”
“The Dutch can create a goal from any situation,” Tabarez said.
Canada has not competed in the World Cup for 24 years — and in its only appearance, failed to score a single goal. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper took time Sunday to congratulate the 2010 victor.
“To people around the world watching this important sporting event, your national team offered an impressive performance and showed tremendous dedication, determination and talent,” he said in a statement.
He also noted that the anthem for this year’s tournament, “Wavin’ Flag,” was written by Somali-born Canadian rapper K’naan.
Germany beat Uruguay 3-2 on Saturday to claim third place in the World Cup.