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Iniesta earns Spain World Cup crown

Netherlands 0-1 Spain (aet)
European champions Spain won the FIFA World Cup for the first time thanks to Andrés Iniesta's strike at the end of extra time.

Spain players celebrate with the trophy after their dramatic success
Spain players celebrate with the trophy after their dramatic success ©AFP

Andrés Iniesta scored a 116th-minute winner as Spain lifted the FIFA World Cup for the first time, defeating ten-man Netherlands 1-0 in Johannesburg.

Having been played in by substitute Cesc Fàbregas, Iniesta drilled across Maarten Stekelenburg with penalties looming at Soccer City. That came seven minutes after John Heitinga was dismissed for pulling down the FC Barcelona midfielder. Arjen Robben had squandered the best chance of normal time for the Oranje when one on one with Iker Casillas. It would ultimately prove costly as the European champions condemned them to a third World Cup final defeat.

Spain therefore became the first nation to win the crown after losing their opening game, and it could all have been much easier had Sergio Ramos headed in on five minutes, forcing Stekelenburg into a diving save from Xavi Hernández's delivery. Vicente del Bosque's side were showing few signs of nerves in their first World Cup showpiece, with Ramos again to the fore soon after, skipping past Dirk Kuyt and driving in a shot which Heitinga scooped over his crossbar. From the resulting short corner, David Villa volleyed into the side netting.

The Oranje gradually found their feet but a fractious game made it impossible for either side to settle into their rhythm: there were five bookings by the 28th minute. Casillas had to be alert on the cusp of half-time to turn away Robben's near-post shot, and in what would become a key individual duel he triumphed again after the restart. Hitherto quiet, Wesley Sneijder's perfectly-weighted pass fashioned the best chance of the match but Robben, with only the goalkeeper to beat, could not bypass Casillas's outstretched right leg.

That was the cue for the game to open up, with Villa next to wonder how he failed to score midway through the half, Heitinga atoning for miscuing Jesús Navas's cross at the far post by somehow blocking the striker's shot. Ramos had his head in his hands moments later after nodding over Xavi's corner when unmarked eight metres out. With extra time approaching, Casillas was once again quick to smother at the feet of Robben after the winger outstripped Carles Puyol.

Fàbregas passed up the clearest chance of extra time when he was denied by the legs of Stekelenburg, who was then thankful for Giovanni van Bronckhorst deflecting Navas's shot wide. Heitinga was dismissed and just as penalties seemed inevitable, up popped Iniesta to ensure European champions Spain are the eighth name on the World Cup trophy.