Live Blog: The World Cup Final

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On August 25, 2007, Tahiti played New Caledonia in the first qualification game for the 2010 World Cup. 912 games, 206 competing nations later, Spain faced off against the Netherlands in the final at Soccer City, Johannesburg, where 84,490 lucky people witnessed the eighth winner of the greatest sporting event in the world. Why not re-live Spain’s dramatic extra-time win by looking back on TIME’s live blog, as we watched the 19th World Cup come to its crescendo. And as always, please feel free to comment below, with your thoughts on how the final unfolded.

5.20pm Casillas becomes just the 10th captain to lift the World Cup and it’s the greatest night in Spain’s football history. And let’s not forget they become the first team to win the World Cup despite losing their opening game. Provided they qualify — hey, you never know — they will be among the favorites to defend their title in Brazil in four years time.

5.18pm Here come your World Cup winners Spain. South Africa president Jacob Zuma and FIFA President Sepp Blatter take to the stage and Blatter hands Casillas the trophy. A kiss and the greatest prize in all of sports is lifted to the heavens.

5.14pm Holland pick up their medals. Perry sends this from Soccer City: “Almost everyone staying for the presentation. Very gracious of the Dutch, who have by far the larger number of fans here. But – oh oh – it seems like they may have stayed to boo the ref. That was deafening.”

5.12pm The officials pick up their medals to a chorus of boos (’twas ever thus). That’s three finals in a row that have ended in defeat for the Dutch, with the past two coming in extra-time.

5.08pm Many will say that was a victory for football but let’s look back on the crucial passage of play. The Dutch do have a case for claiming a free-kick near the Spanish goal but perhaps Webb had tired (or was tired?) of the constant calls to blow for the infringement. Barcelona’s youth product Fabregas found current king of the Camp Nou, Iniesta, who took a touch and dispatched it home.

5.02pm SPAIN HAVE WON THE WORLD CUP! The Dutch remain furious, laying into the referee but the better team won on the day. The Spanish have doubled up, now holding the World Cup as well as the European Championship. Spain become the first European team to win the trophy outside of Europe, they’ve never been further than the quarter-finals and it might just have been the best player of the tournament who won it.

5.00pm Xavi becomes seemingly the 20th man booked (actually the 13th) and the Dutch pour forward. Spain clear and Torres pulls his hamstring. Holland don’t relent but Robben is looking for a free kick (seemingly his 20th) and time is nearly up for his men.

4.57pm Two minutes to play and Spain are on the verge of winning the World Cup. Iniesta has probably been the best player on the pitch but, my, they’ll be some close analysis of those key decisions not going Holland’s way.

4.54pm Webb’s having a bad few minutes, missing a clear corner for the Dutch. They need all the help they can get right now. To prove the point, Webb doesn’t give them a free kick, Spain go down the other end and Iniesta scores! The Dutch are furious, surrounding the officials because they think a foul should have been called moments earlier.

4.50pm It’s the Iniesta show as he wins another free kick but the keeper deals well with the whipped in ball. Both men between the sticks have had excellent games and could be called upon to do far more for their country in a matter of minutes. Webb, meanwhile, shows Robben the benefit of the doubt for kicking the ball away but he could have gone too. If his penalty wins the World Cup, there could be a riot.

4.48pm Drama! Heitinga pulls back Iniesta on the edge of the box and he has to go. It’s Spain’s to win now. Xavi gets it up and over but not in. But Spain has an extra man in extra time.

4.44pm El Nino is on! Torres spends the past 60 minutes warming up and now replaces Villa. He scored the winner two years ago in the final of EURO 2008. Can he do the same right now?

4.42pm Half time in extra time and we’re 15 minutes away from the second final in a row going to penalties.

4.40pm Van Bronckhorst is substituted for Edson Braafheid, bringing the curtain down on his career. But he might yet have one more job to do: the lifting of the World Cup.

4.38pm The Dutch Royal Family look bored. But they should now be thinking, “how is this game goalless?” Fabregas gets into a decent position but slips his shot wide.

4.35pm Spain come forward again and Navas’s shot is deflected into the side netting for a corner.

4.33pm This time Fabregas provides the assist but Iniesta wants to walk the ball into the net and the chance is smothered. But Rafael Van Der Vaart’s introduction for de Jong indicates that the Netherlands fancy nicking this before penalties. Extra-time has been brighter than we had a right to expect. But will we get a winner?

4.30pm It’s the one-on-one World Cup final but the game remains goalless. Fabregas does indeed try and make his mark but Stekelenburg takes one from the Casillas handbook and saves well.

4.27pm What do we reckon then? Spain to press for a winner and the Dutch to hold on for penalties? No sooner written than Spain go close, claim a penalty and Villa’s shot goes behind for a corner. Puyol’s header is tame and it’s as we were.

4.25pm At least Perry is being more upbeat. “This game’s starting, just, to come alive. The players look tired, and things are getting a little ragged and a bit more end to end. There’ll be a goal soon, I reckon.”

And also, ” Meanwhile, I have a Dutch brass band to my left who’ve also just found their moment…”

4.20pm There are good 0-0’s and bad ones. That was the latter. Nine bookings and a handful of chances is your lot. Extra-time here we come.

4.16pm A minute to play in regular time and we’re set to go the full 120 minutes.

4.13pm In Cesc we trust: Fabregas comes on for Alonso, surely to make a mark in extra-time unless we have late, late drama.

4.10pm Rockin’ Robben: he’s through again and doesn’t go down when he could, choosing to when the moment has gone and is duly booked.

4.08pm Iniesta dances through the Dutch defense, a little like Ricky Villa in the 1981 FA Cup final for Spurs (one for our older readers there!) but the Netherlands defend better than Manchester City and the danger is cleared. That game was a classic. This isn’t.

4.06pm Wesley Sneijder loses the ball, looking as likely to add to his goal total as you or I right now. Spain wins a corner but it comes to the same thing as this match’s score: zilch.

4.03pm Beautiful move by Spain, at times breathless in its accuracy, ends with Villa’s shot going for a corner. And incredibly, Ramos misses the free header that Puyol didn’t at exactly the same stage against Germany on Wednesday. Does that signal extra time or possibly a chance of equal magnitude at the other end?

4.00pm Iniesta is caught and referee Webb is spot on, giving the free kick. Villa shapes to take it and it curls harmlessly wide.

3.56pm With 20 to play, we’re 20 years on from the West Germany vs Argentina final, which was frustratingly similar. But then Villa is presented with the best chance yet but he can’t finish thanks to Heitinga’s crucial intervention. And now the camera picks out Torres, who is warming up! The game is calling for a hero and he could be it. His Liverpool team-mate Dirk Kuyt makes way for the Netherlands after a quiet night’s work and winger Eljero Elia comes on.

3.53pm Spain waking up but a period pf pressure breaks down, and then Van Persie breaks down, fouled by Capdevila, who gets a booking for the tactical foul as RVP was well and truly away. We might yet get a goal within the 90.

3.48pm Perry notes that “the cheers are turning to whistles.” Robben clearly hears them as he suddenly bursts through one-on-one but “Saint” Iker lives up to his billing, saving well at his feet.

3.45pm Better again from the Netherlands. Robben’s free kick is dangerously floated in but the flag goes up. Back comes Spain but it comes to nothing and we’re full circle as Robben goes down. First change upon us with Pedro off, replaced by Jesus Navas.

3.43pm John Heitinga follows his captain into the book. What a letdown this is sadly proving to be.

3.38pm Love him or loathe him, at least Robben is taking it to Spain with another speculative effort requiring Casillas to deal with it. At the other end, Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst picks up a booking in his last ever game for his country. Xavi’s resulting shot looks good but nothing more and drifts over.

3.35pm Joan Capdevila, you could have been a hero! But he fluffs his line from the Spanish corner and the chance goes begging.

3.32pm Welcome back where it’s 3-2 in the middle of the ninth. Sorry, I’ve resorted to putting my Boston Red Sox on the desktop such is the dubious quality of the World Cup final. But the only way is up and here we go again!

3.17pm Half-time and we’re all square at 0-0. Robben’s late late shot was destined for the corner but Casillas pushes it away for a corner. Some signs of hope for the Netherlands. Let’s leave the last word for now with TIME’s Perry, who is at Soccer City. We’ll see you in 15 minutes. “Stadium is almost the quietest I’ve experienced this World Cup. It doesn’t really feel like the game has even begun. So many yellow cards. We need a goal desperately.”

3.12pm Wesley Sneijder avoids the dreaded card but gives away a dangerous free kick nonetheless, which Alonso places wide. Decent effort but this is the World Cup final and we expect exceptional!

3.10pm Don’t hold back: BBC color commentator Mark Lawrenson suggests that if this game was taking place in the early rounds, “we’d be slaughtering it.” He’s correct but let’s hope the teams can prove him wrong.

3.06pm Holland does take their next corner (so good of them) and talk about the wrong person at the right time: defender Joris Mathijsen isn’t expecting the cute pass and hits the air. On the counter, Pedro (who is only making his second competitive start for Spain) blasts wide.

3.03pm What a show of sportsmanship! Casillas totally misjudges a back pass and it goes for a corner. But van Persie plays it back to Casillas rather than take advantage. Club manager Arsene Wenger wouldn’t approve, you’d imagine.

3.02pm Robben, not for the first time in his career, buys a free-kick. But apart from the flurry of yellow cards, there’s been no rhythm whatsoever. Wasn’t like this four years ago when Italy took on France.

2.56pm Not that we need a goal but I shall note that the Netherlands are in 1-11 shirt numbers, which is apparently a first since the 1954 “Miracle of Bern” final, won 3-2 by West Germany against Hungary. Meanwhile, number 8 Nigel de Jong is lucky to still be on the pitch, only seeing yellow for a nasty high lunge on Xabi Alonso.

2.51pm Right then: who had 21 on the over/under? Van Bommel is rightly booked for a shocker of a challenge on Andres Iniesta. I didn’t think I’d be right so soon! This is getting niggly as Ramos is immediately the fourth man booked. One hopes against hope this isn’t going to be Holland vs Portugal from the last World Cup, which had 16!

2.48pm On a slightly random tact, New Zealand will be rooting for Spain tonight. The reason? If they win it means that the All Whites will be the only unbeaten team in the tournament, having draw all three games, which wasn’t enough to get them out of the group stages.

2.46pm Puyol evens up the card count, taking out Arjen Robben. That could be costly for Spain as he’ll now be on edge. But referee Webb hasn’t brandished red to anyone in his games. Resulting free kick is on target but Iker Casillas has no difficulty hauling it in.

2.44pm Mark van Bommel fouls his Barcelona team-mate Carles Puyol and that was the least shocking moment thus far. He’s a yellow card waiting to happen (and he’ll get one). But first yellow for real goes to the out of sorts Robin van Persie.

2.42pm David Villa volleys just wide from the imperious Xavi’s cross. Xavi has more successful passes than anyone else over these 64 games and it’s easy to see why. He’s a lovely player.

2.40pm No evidence of Total Football from Holland though the unkind among you would say you haven’t seen it at all this tournament. 10 minutes gone and Holland need to ping one in on goal just to get their confidence flowing.Problem is that you need the ball to do that.

2.35pm Xavi sends a free-kick in and Maarten Stekelenburg ends up making an excellent double save to keep the Spanish at bay. This is looking ominous with just five minutes gone. And you sure would have got good odds on Sergio Ramos being the first goal scorer.

2.30pm And we’re off. Spain in their unfamiliar blue are — surprise surprise — holding onto the ball as if they brought it with them.

2.25pm There’s always one. Here’s Perry: “Wow. You see the lone pitch invasion! Came darting in from the northwest corner, making for the trophy. Got inches away before security decked him.”

2.22pm Teams out, led by Englishman Howard Webb, who is the referee. Arguably the best thing done by England in South Africa.

2.20pm Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro has been on the pitch at Soccer City, carrying the Fifa World Cup Trophy in a case. That’s arguably the best thing he’s done in South Africa.

2.12pm We might be going down the road traveled by Ronaldo before the final in France 1998 as something is clearly not right: Daily Telegraph’s Henry Winter says on his Twitter feed that, “A forlorn Fernando Torres has just strolled down the tunnel in a tracksuit, and is playing no part in the warm-up, even with the subs.”

2.07pm More from Perry: “The stadium is overwhelming orange tonight. Dutch fans everywhere — that may have some historical connection to Dutch colonial history here — but the difference in support is striking. When Spain came out, they got some polite clapping and a muffled cheer — and now, when they’re doing the starting line-up, out and out boos. When the Dutch came out, the roof would have lifted off (if we had one).”

2.00pm TIME’s Alex Perry is one of the lucky people to be at the game. He’s gone and posted about Mandela making it to Soccer City a little earlier. Check it out here.

1.45pm Incredibly, the two teams have never met in a World Cup or European Championships. I understand that they did contest the third place match in the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. Spain won 3-1 and, if you know more about that one, please let us know.

1.43pm Predictions in the comments box please. I’d like to hedge my bets somewhat by going for a shock Dutch win 2-1, possibly after extra-time. But if they did that over 90 minutes (which would match the Brazil side of 1970, who also won every game in qualification and all the World Cup matches within 90 minutes), you’d forgive me, wouldn’t you?

1.40pm Hardly a surprise that Torres was left out. He’s been less than stellar this past month and, frankly, any Liverpool fan would surely take the rumored 50 million pounds to be bid by Chelsea for his services. Naturally, watch him come off the bench to score the winner now!

1.35pm Here’s your team news…

Netherlands: 1-Maarten Stekelenburg; 2-Gregory van der Wiel, 3-John Heitinga, 4-Joris Mathijsen, 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst; 7-Dirk Kuyt, 6-Mark van Bommel, 10-Wesley Sneijder, 8-Nigel de Jong, 11-Arjen Robben; 9-Robin van Persie.

Spain: 1-Iker Casillas; 15-Sergio Ramos, 3-Gerard Pique, 5-Carles Puyol, 11-Joan Capdevila; 14-Xabi Alonso, 8-Xavi, 6-Andres Iniesta, 16-Sergio Busquets; 18-Pedro, 7-David Villa.

1.33pm How about that closing ceremony? A tasteful occasion (we’ll even forgive Shakira’s miming) and what a wonderful sight it was to see a smiling Nelson Mandela taking in the atmosphere.

1.30pm Let’s do this. The breaking team news is that Fernando Torres has been left out of Spain’s starting line-up, with Pedro getting the nod ahead of him, as he did for the semi-final win over Germany.