The 2010 World Cup Finals had dragged on, scoreless, into extra time. The Netherlands and Spain had both never won the cup before. Spain had made 12 total appearances in the World cup before 2010, and had played in every World Cup since 1978, but had never even managed to make it to the finals before 2010. The Netherlands had played in eight World Cups before 2010, and had even managed to make it to the finals twice in the 1970’s, but they had never won the cup.
The two teams had played for 90 minutes without a single goal, leading to 30 minutes of extra time. By the 106th minute both teams had used all of their substitutions. This game also featured an absurd 14 yellow cards and one red card given to the Dutch player John Heitinga in the 109th minute after his second yellow, leaving the Dutch to play with just 10 players for the remainder of the game. By the 116th minute, with only four minutes of extra time left, it seemed the game was going to be decided by a penalty shootout.
The goal that changed the fate of the game started simply. Jesús Navas took the ball out of Spain’s half on the right wing and initiated a clumsy series of passes through the center of the field that eventually ended with Torres having the ball on the left flank. Torres took his first touch back towards his own goal and lifted his head to assess his options. Seeing an opening, he tried to cross the ball to Andrés Iniesta waiting on the other side of the box. The Dutch defender Rafael van der Vaart managed to get a foot on the ball and stop the cross, but unluckily for the Dutch, the ball landed right at the feet of Cesc Fàbregas. Fàbregas took a single quick touch into space away from the goal before slotting the ball around the Dutch defense to a waiting Iniesta. After his first touch left the ball bouncing at knee height, Iniesta volleyed the ball toward the far post, past the keeper, and into the back of the net. With only four minutes left in the game, Spain had all but guaranteed their victory.
After the goal the entire Spanish team sprinted to the corner flag with Iniesta leading the charge. Within seconds of scoring, he had ripped off his jersey, revealing an undershirt with an homage to Andres’s recently deceased close friend Daniel Jarque, “Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros” (“Dani Jarque, always with us”). Iniesta ended up getting a yellow card (contributing to the ridiculous final count), but I doubt he regretted being able to dedicate that moment to his friend in front of the entire world.
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“Netherlands – Spain World Cup Live Blog.” FIFA, last modified July 11, 2010, accessed February 17, 2016, http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/round=249721/match=300061509/live-blog.html.
“Netherlands Vs Spain [0-1] INIESTA GOAL 2010 World Cup HQ (11.07.10).” YouTube, last modified March 9, 2014, accessed February 17, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwADqit3dBE.