2010 FIFA World Cup Final: How Spain Won It
To the watching world, Soccer City in Johannesburg played host to a boring, brutal 19th FIFA World Cup Final in which Howard Webb's deleterious mistakes were the only factor on the outcome.
And to the expert few, world football's pinnacle match in South Africa saw tactical perfection executed from both sides and hence leading to the tight, tense, closely-contested encounter with only one moment of magic able to break the mould and provide the world with a victor.
But it was a moment of magic that was always going to come from just one team, Spain, with head coach Vicente Del Bosque winning the tactical battle against counterpart Bert Van Marwijk, who's Netherlands team were set up with the wrong tactics from the outset.
Here is how Spain overcame the dirty Dutch and achieved such a remarkable feat in South Africa by using the right tactics.
The Obvious: Passing Play
A very obvious reason for La Furia Roja 's success, but one cannot deny the importance of head coach Vicente Del Bosque's gameplan for his team to virtually pass the ball into the back of the opponents' net.
First of all, the passing play was pivotal to Spanish glory as it nullified the threat of Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie (who cut a very frustrated figure) for large periods of the match, due to the Netherlands' lack of possession and limited time on the ball.
Also, it allowed Spain to control the tempo of the game, something which gives them a somewhat superiority complex over their opponents.
Again Del Bosque proved his mastery at psychological warfare, as the Dutch players went overboard on the 'hostile assertion' tactic set up by their coach Bert Van Marwijk and the technical team, conceding needless fouls and unnecessarily getting a player sent-off when it mattered most; all due to the frustration of not being able to take possession of the ball from the Spanish.
The passing play set up by Del Bosque was also a very intelligent way of instilling discipline in his own players; no long range shots allowed was the order, as the ball had to be passed inside the penalty area at least before making an attempt on goal.
This meant Spain, whilst boring the spectators as they waited for the perfect opportunitiy, were able to thread through Andres Iniesta twice, as well as Cesc Fabregas, for sublime goalscoring chances with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Contrast that to the Netherlands, and every other team in the tournament, who take multiple attempts at goal from a long distance, and you'll see why Spain ended up as World Champions.
La Selección Española played the Arsenal way, i.e. waiting for the right chance to score, but the only difference is, Spain actually managed to perfect it and win major titles, where Premier League club Arsenal still haven't.
Fast Is Better Than Slow
Former FC Barcelona left-back and Netherlands captain Giovanni Van Bronckhorst was playing his last ever professional football match in that World Cup final before retiring from the sport completely.
And in his professionally callous way, Vicente Del Bosque decided he would make life hell for the full-back by exploiting his lack of pace, first with Pedro Rodriguez, and then with Jesus Navas after realising the former played too centrally to fully exploit Gio's slowness.
Navas' introduction made the Spanish a real threat on every attack, as the Sevilla winger was ordered by Del Bosque to play the opposition full-back's game of being pushed down the wing, but then exposing his lack of pace by charging down right to the goal line before putting a cross into the penalty area.
Van Bronckhorst simply couldn't deal with Navas and needed help from teammates; problem with that is, it creates space for other Spanish players to either shoot or put a delivery into the box.
Coach Bert Van Marwijk recognised this by replacing Gio with Edson Braafheid, but by that time it was too late; the extra defensive work due to the pace of Jesus Navas meant the Dutch defenders were too fatigued and thus lost concentration by the time Andres Iniesta scored that all-important winner for Spain.
It's very harsh to write this about one of the Netherlands' greatest ever players, but very unfortunately for Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, his lack of pace was one of the major contributing factors to Spain winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Cesc Is Simply Fab
Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque brought on the aforementioned Cesc Fabregas in the 85th minute for Xabi Alonso, and hailed the impact he had on the team for those five minutes, as well as the thirty minutes of extra-time.
The Spanish boss said, "Fabregas came on and we began to dominate. We had greater ball possession and depth in our game."
And it's true, the Arsenal captain did have a big influence on proceedings following his introduction to the match.
His attacking style, as opposed to Alonso's more holding, defensive style of play, gave Spain more options going forward, with Fabregas providing playmaker Xavi with extra support and thus creating space for others like striker David Villa to take the ball into the penalty area and work a shooting chance.
Del Bosque recognised that with Spain pushing forward more and more at every opportunity, Holland were being pulled back further and further, and so the lack of defensive players with Xabi Alonso taken off was never going to be an issue.
And this subsequently meant La Roja were able to keep up their pressure on the Dutch defence, make them more fatigued and therefore less concentrated, nullify their attacking players like Robben, Sneijder, Van Persie and Eljero Elia from the game, as well as leading the Netherlands players to commit unnecessary fouls and ultimately going down to ten men.
With the introduction of Francesc Fabregas i Soler, Spain were able to keep cracking away at Holland's defence before it finally broke, holes were exposed and Iniesta was given the time and space to net that winner.
The Other Honourable Mention
Yes, Cesc may have been simply fabulous against the Dutch when he came on, but for the whole 120 minutes, there was another stand-out star who has actually been something of an unsung hero, rather surprisingly.
Andres Iniesta was superb, but his Barcelona partner-in-crime, the previously mentioned Xavi Hernandez, was the key playmaker and 'man behind the scenes' as it were when describing Spain's historic World Cup Final triumph.
Head coach Vicente Del Bosque had Xavi play across all blades of grass in the centre of midfield, cutting back to take the ball off the centre-backs and work it forward, as well as bombing up to the penalty area to support the wingers when they moved with the ball up the byline.
Not only did this use of Xavi by the coach fully utilise his extraordinary cardiovascular fitness, but also meant he was in the right place at the right time to create goalscoring chances and defend when the opposition attacked.
It also meant that there was no chance in hell Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk could do want he presumably really wanted to, and that was to have holding midfielders Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong man-mark Xavi out of the game.
Xavi was constantly moving around midfield with unbelievable energy, meaning the Dutch players couldn't get close to him, and thus the super-talented Barca midfielder was able to pick out teammates with his usual defence-splitting passes (such as the Fabregas one-on-one chance) and left the Dutch defence at his mercy.
To read about how the Netherlands got their tactics wrong, click here .
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