It wasn’t pretty, but Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time.
It was a game of firsts. It was the first final not involving Germany, Italy, Brazil or Argentina. It also happened to be the first game where goring an opponent in the chest with a cleat didn’t result in an ejection or a homicide.
More importantly, though, it was Spain’s first final appearance. By way of complex relational mathematics comparing appearances to victories, the win also made it Spain’s first World Cup title.
The Spanish came into the tournament with a peeling tag of perennial underachievers and choke artists. A nearly identical squad won the 2008 European Championships, but the World Cup is always the decider and the writer of history, regardless of what the people at Fox will tell you.
It looked like that tag was going to be stamped back on after the almighty Swiss toppled La Furia Roja in their first game of the tournament. Seriously, the freakin’ Swiss? The gag reflex looked to be back in full force. No team had ever won the World Cup after losing its first game, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be these guys.
Well, so much for that.
This Spanish side will now go down as one of the best international sides ever. Despite scoring a record-low eight goals for a World Cup winner, Spain actually tried to play positive soccer. In spite of the constant histrionics, they made possession look easy and employed an exhaustive pressing defense, allowing only two goals in seven games. They were the anti-Dutch.
The Dutch. Oh, the Dutch. Once upon a time it was more important for them to play beautifully than to win. Gone are those days. Their strategy today was to forcefully foul, hopefully injure, and possibly kill the entire Spanish team. Most of Spain’s diving was actually warranted. After the first twenty minutes, you could’ve bet your life on a Dutch player being red-carded and been completely safe. It’s scary to think all of this happened and a guy named “The Cannibal” never even left the bench.
At the end of it all, the best team in the tournament won. Spain has been the world’s premier squad for the last four years, losing only two games in that span. There’s some kind of righteousness in that.
And for all you American fans who can only support “the best,” you can now make the ridiculous argument that, by proxy, the U.S. is the best team in the world. Yay, America!