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Soldado set to become Spurs record signing

Tottenham Hotspur have announced that they have agreed terms with Valencia of the Spanish Primera Liga for the signing of striker Roberto Soldado. In doing so, they will smash their transfer record for the second time this summer as Soldado’s agreed price tag of £26 million follows their £17 million capture of Paulinho from Corinthians of Brazil. The twenty-eight year old forward is expected to put pen to paper tomorrow if everything goes well with his medical examination by the north London club. The transfer fee is expected to be paid in instalments with an initial payment of around £10.4 million followed by three further annual payments of about £5,2 million.

The signing takes Spurs’ summer transfer spending commitments to over £50 million, which could be an indication that they are counting on receiving a large income from the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. If they can get around £80 million plus a top player from the Madrid club then they will have made a net transfer profit this summer and replaced one outstanding player with several top class players such as Soldado, Paulinho, whoever they can prise from Real and the promising Nacer Chadli. Spurs have also just received a sizeable fee from Cardiff City, who have broken their own club transfer record in paying over £8 million for defender Steven Caulker.

Real and Spurs negotiating over Bale

Real Madrid’s protracted chase of Tottenham’s Welsh international Gareth Bale could gradually be moving towards the end game as new Real boss Carlo Ancelotti, 54, has said that the two clubs are now discussing terms. The Spanish giants, who are currently on tour in Los Angeles, California, and play LA Galaxy in a friendly match tomorrow, have reportedly offered £86 million for the winger, a sum that would smash the current world transfer record fee of £80 million that they paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2011. However, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is playing hardball and is preparing to hold out for a player to be thrown into the deal in addition to the cash.

Ancelotti ruled out a return to Spurs for Croatian international midfielder Luka Modric, saying that he’s an important player for Real Madrid and will be staying with the club, but Real are believed to have mooted Argentinian winger Angel Di Maria and Portuguese left-back Fabio Coentrao as potential makeweights in the package for Bale. So far, Spurs haven’t shown much interest in either of that pair, but are believed to pursuing Real’s twenty year old Spanish striker Alvaro Morata, as well as Valencia’s Roberto Soldado. Morata is one of Spain’s most promising young centre-forwards but is highly valued in Madrid and his departure would leave them short in numbers up front with only Karim Benzema and Ronaldo left on the books as genuine forwards, so the two clubs’ positions remain a long way apart on the make-up of any player plus cash deal.

Confederations Cup: Brazil 3-0 Spain

Brazil 3 (Fred 2, 47, Neymar 44)
Spain 0
Maracana, Rio de Janeiro. Temp. 23°C, wind 9 mph, mostly cloudy. Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Holland)

TEAMS

Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho (Hernanes 88), Oscar, Fred (Jo 80), Hulk (Jadson 73), Neymar.
Spain: Casillas, Ramos, Arbeloa (Azpilicueta 46), Pique, Alba, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, Torres (Villa 59), Mata (Navas 52), Pedro.

Brazil impressively swept aside the challenge of Spain and were totally unfazed by the pressure of competing in a final in front of their own fans as they scored three goals without reply to retain the FIFA Confederations Cup, making it three wins in a row and their fourth triumph in the history of the tournament. Once again their star player, Neymar, was on song and they tormented the Spanish defence for ninety minutes whilst largely snuffing out any hint of a threat at the other end.

Nerves were settled early on as Brazil once again struck in the opening minutes. All three of their front line were involved in the move that led to Fred’s second minute strike, with Hulk crossing from the right for Neymar to knock it down to Fred and the Fluminense striker scooped it in. Brazil kept the pressure on and their fast start clearly rattled Spain, who struggled to cope with the speed and movement of the selecao attack. Both Arbeloa and ramos were booked before the half hour mark and just as Spain were looking forward to a chance to rest and regroup over half time, their task got much harder as Neymar fired in the second goal of the night.

The struggling Arbeloa was replaced with the more attacking Chelsea right-back Cesar Azpilicueta at the interval but he didn’t have time to make an impact before Fred effectively wrapped it up for Brazil with his second and their third on the game within two minutes of the restart. Spain looked to have been handed a route back into the game six minutes later when they were awarded a spot kick for Marcelo’s trip on Jesus Navas, but Sergio Ramos struck the penalty wide of the goal and any lingering hopes of a comeback were finally extinguished in the sixty eighth minute when centre-back Gerard Pique was dismissed for a foul on Neymar.

Jadson, Jo and Hernanes were introduced for Brazil late on as manager Luiz Felipe Scolari tried to give as many of his players as possible a chance to experience winning the final of a major international tournament before the real thing starts next summer. They saw out the game without difficulty to spark celebrations across the city and country and raise expectations sky high that they will repeat the success in the World Cup in twelve months’ time. The impressive nature of their win over the world champions has certainly quietened any of Scolari’s doubters and on this form his team can mount a real challenge for the World Cup. Spain have had a wake up call after a record breaking unbeaten run in competitive matches, but they have plenty of time to put their house in order before the main event and they will also still be strong contenders.

Related Links:
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Confederations Cup: Spain 3-0 Nigeria

Spain 3 (Jordi Alba 3, 88, Torres 62)
Nigeria 0
Castelão, Fortaleza. Temp. 27°C, wind 8 mph, passing clouds. Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)

TEAMS

Spain: Valdes, Ramos, Arbeloa, Pique, Jordi Alba, Fabregas (Silva 54), Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, Soldado (Torres 60), Pedro (Villa 75).
Nigeria: Enyeama, Echiejile, Ambrose, Omeruo (Egwuekwe 11), Oboabona, Obi Mikel, Mba (Ogu 63), Ogude, Ideye, Akpala (Gambo 71), Musa.

Vicente del Bosque’s all conquering Spain team expectedly beat Nigeria to win Group B at the 2013 Confederations Cup with three wins from three and Fernando Torres moved clear at the top of the scorers chart with his fifth of the tournament. Nigeria looked promising at times but ultimately they didn’t have enough to qualify for the semi finals and will be going home to concentrate on the final round of the African World Cup qualifiers to try to make sure they can return to Brazil next year and use the experience they have gained from this competition.

Spain got off to a dream start by taking the lead in only the third minute when Jordi Alba finished off a fine run with a confident finish past Enyeama in the Nigeria goal. If there’s one team in the world who you don’t want to be chasing the game against for almost ninety minutes on a hot day it’s Spain, for they are masters at keeping possession, and the Nigerians knew they were facing an uphill struggle from that point on. With Uruguay winning in the other group match, Nigeria needed a big win to have a hope of going through and to their credit they had a go, taking the game to Spain and creating some chances, the best of which was when a shot from Jon Obi Mikel hit the bar. However, Spain were always a threat themselves and Fabregas also hit woodwork at the other end as half time approached.

We reached the hour mark with the score still at 1-0 to Spain and del Bosque introduced Fernando Torres to freshen up his attack in a bid to kill off any hopes of a Nigerian revival. The Chelsea striker duly delivered within two minutes of coming off the bench as he headed a Pedro cross past Enyeama to double the lead. From then on the result was never in doubt and Alba wrapped up the scoring two minutes from time with his own second of the game. Spain, as Group B winners, will now face Group A runners up Italy in the second semi final on Thursday.

Related Links:
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Confederations Cup: Spain 10-0 Tahiti

Spain 10 (Torres 5, 33, 57, 78, Silva 31, 89, Villa 39, 49, 64, Mata 66)
Tahiti 0

Maracana, Rio de Janeiro. Temp. 25°C, wind 7 mph, passing clouds. Referee: Djamel Haimoudi (Algeria)

TEAMS

Spain: Reina, Ramos (Navas 46), Albiol, Monreal, Azpilicueta, Silva, Martinez, Cazorla (Iniesta 76), Torres, Villa, Mata (Fabregas 69).
Tahiti: Roche, Ludivon, Tehau J, Vallar, Lemaire (Vero 74), Bourebare (Tehau L 69), Tehau A (Tehau T), Caroine, Aitamai, Vahirua, Chong-Hue.

Spain effortlessly brushed aside Tahiti to record their second win in the 2013 Confederations Cup and register the highest winning margin in the competition history. It was a real mismatch and it went according to script for the Spanish although it took some time for the floodgates to open. In the end, Tahiti were completely outclassed but playing against the world champions in front of a large crowd at the Maracana was an experience never to forget.

Tahiti began as they did in their first match against Nigeria by falling behind in the fifth minute. Fernando Torres was the scorer with an assist by his Chelsea team mate Juan Mata. However, just as everyone was expecting the Pacific islanders to crumble, the deluge of goals failed to materialise and Tahiti managed twenty five minutes without conceding a goal. Spain’s attempts to boost their goal difference were repeatedly thwarted until David Silva got the second in the thirty first minute.

From two nil onwards the goals did start to come thick and fast. Fernando Torres got his second of the game two minutes later and David Villa opened his personal account for the season in the thirty ninth minute to make it four nil at the interval. He doubled his tally four minutes after the restart and the goals continued to come at regular intervals throughout the second half. Fernando Torres completed his hat-trick in the fifty seventh minute and David Villa followed suit seven minutes later following an unfortunate fumble by goalkeeper Mikael Roche. Juan Mata got in on the scoring act to make it 8-0 just two minutes later.

Tahiti did well to contain the scoring for a period following that goal and even survived a penalty after Aitamai handled a cross on the edge of the box. Torres struck the spot kick against the bar, but he wasn’t to be denied for long as he soon found himself one on one against the goalkeeper and kept his nerve to notch up his fourth of the night. It fell to David Silva to round off the rout in the final minute and bring the score up to double figures.

Nothing is mathematically certain in Group B yet, but it will be a surprise if Spain fail to qualify now that they have a plus eleven goal difference. They would need to lose very heavily to Nigeria in their final match and Uruguay to beat both Nigeria and Tahiti to be knocked out before the semi finals. Uruguay play Nigeria in the other Group B game in Salvador tonight.

Related Links:
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Confederations Cup: Spain 2-1 Uruguay

Spain 2 (Pedro 20, Soldado 32)
Uruguay
(Suarez 88)
Arena Pernambuco, Recife. Temp. 26°C, wind 6mph, partly cloudy. Referee: Yuichi Nishimura (Japan)

TEAMS

Spain: Casillas, Ramos, Arbeloa, Pique, Alba, Fabregas (Cazorla 65), Iniesta, Xavi (Martinez 77), Busquets, Soldado, Pedro (Mata 81).
Uruguay: Muslera, Lugano, Pereira, Caceres, Godin, Perez (Forlan 69), Rodriguez, Gargano (Lodeiro 63), Ramirez (Gonzalez 46), Suarez, Cavani.

Spain put in a dominant performance that reminded the rest of the world of their class as they overcame a strongy Uruguay team with goals from Pedro and Roberto Soldado. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez got a late consolation goal for Uruguay to set up a tense last couple of minutes and make the outcome a bit closer than the balance of play suggested.

Spain had left their two main strikers from recent tournaments – David Villa and Fernando Torres – on the bench as they preferred to give Pedro and Soldado a chance to shine and they both made good use of the opportunity, showing what strength in depth there is within the Spain squad. Pedro was credited with the first goal in the twentieth minute, although his shot did take a significant deflection off Uruguay defender Diego Lugano, and Soldado was set up by Fabregas to double the lead twelve minutes laater. Fabregas, Pique and Iniesta all also came close to scoring in a first half in which Uruguay rarely threatened as the Spanish controlled the play and dominated possession of the ball.

Uruguay did improve after the interval and managed not to fall further behind as Spain slowed down in the heat of the evening, eventually bringing on Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez to shut up shop and replace Xavi in the 77th minute. It was a set piece that eventually allowed Suarez to get his name on the scoresheet. He beat Casillas with a free kick from thirty yards, but by then it was too little too late. Spain are now strong favorites to go on and win Group B but Uruguay will still be hopeful of progressing alongside them by beating Nigeria and Tahiti in their next two Confederations Cup matches.

Confederations Cup 2013: Team by Team Preview

The 2013 Confederations Cup kicks off in Brasilia on Saturday with a strong line up of teams competing in the World Cup dress rehearsal a year before the real thing takes place next summer. Most of them will expect to return for the 2014 World Cup – only Tahiti have been eliminated so far from the qualification process – so it’s a good chance for them to hone their preparations and get some valuable experience of the Brazilian conditions. Here’s our guide to the teams and how they will fare.


Team: Brazil
Manager: Luiz Felipe Scolari
Qualified as: Hosts

Last 5 results: Group A Fixtures:
Brazil 1-1 Russia (London, 25-03-2013, FR)
Bolivia 0-4 Brazil (Santa Cruz, 06-04-2013, FR)
Brazil 2-2 Chile (Belo Horizonte, 25-04-2013, FR)
Brazil 2-2 England (Rio de Janeiro, 02-06-2013, FR)
Brazil 3-0 France (Porto Alegre, 09-06-2013, FR)
Japan (Brasília, 15-06-2013)
Mexico (Fortaleza, 19-06-2013)
Italy (Salvador, 22-06-2013)

Star Player: Neymar. The Santos striker is the most exciting attacking talent in Brazilian football at the moment, but he still has a lot to prove, especially at international level. His goals record of 20 in 34 games for Brazil is impressive but, having made his debut just after the last World Cup, most of his national team experience has come in friendly matches. He did feature in the 2011 Copa America and 2012 Olympics, scoring in both tournaments, but wasn’t able to help his team to success on either occasion. It’s easy to forget that he’s still only 21 as he seems to have been in the headlines for years since he shot to prominence at a young age and led Santos to their Copa Libertadores triumph in 2011 and rarely a week has gone by in the past two years without rumours linking him with a big money move to Europe. New he’s finally heading to Barcelona to test himself in La Liga and he’ll want to leave his homeland on a high by impressing at the Confederations Cup before he starts his new adventure.

One to Watch: Oscar. The Chelsea midfielder has been playing an increasingly prominent role in the Brazil national team of late and now has seventeen caps and six goals to his name. Also only 21, he is coming into the tournament off the back of a successful first season in Europe where he excelled in the English Premier league and won the Europa league. His fleet footwork and incisive passing, not to mention his lethal shooting ability, make him an important supplier and scorer of goals and a successful Confedereations Cup campaign will go al long way towards staking his claim for a first team spot come next summer. Brazil could be building their team around him for years to come.

Prediction: We expect Brazil to rise to the occasion and put recent patchy form behind them by reaching the final of this event on their home soil. They have selected a strong and talented squad and will be treating the competition very seriously as it represents their only chance of competitive action in the build up to the World Cup finals. Home advantage should help them see off Japan and Mexico in their opening games and we expect them to win their group and reach the final, possibly against Spain, which would be a close encounter but they may just edge it. Read the rest of this entry »

Spain Squad for Confederations Cup 2013

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque has finalised his 23 man squad for the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. Spain, the current World and European champions, are hoping to win this competition for the first time and are travelling with a strong and experienced group of players. They have been drawn in Group B and will play Uruguay in Recife (16-06-2013), followed by Tahiti in Rio de Janeiro (20-06-2013) and Nigeria in Fortaleza (23-06-2013). The squad departs for the Americas this week to begin their preparations for the tournament with a friendly against Haiti in Miami (08-06-2013) followed by another against Republic of Ireland in New York (11-06-2013).

The squad is drawn from nine different club teams with nine players coming from Barcelona, four from Real Madrid and one each from Valencia and Sevilla in Spain. Eight of the players are based outside Spain, with seven in England – three at Chelsea, two at Arsenal and one each at Liverpool and Manchester City – plus one at Bayern Munich in Germany. There are no uncapped players in the squad and the most capped player is goalkeeper Iker Casillas with 143 caps. The top scorer is David Villa with 53 goals.

The squad in full is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool), Victor Valdes (Barcelona)

Defenders: Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich)

Forwards: Juan Mata (Chelsea), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), David Silva (Manchester City), Pedro (Barcelona), David Villa (Barcelona), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Roberto Soldado (Valencia)

Barca slip up in Pamplona as title chances fade

Barcelona failed to close the gap on leaders Real Madrid with a lacklustre 3-2 deafeat away to Osasuna. The champions’ hopes of retaining their La Liga title look to be fading fast as Real now have the chance to move 10 points clear if they can beat Levante at the Bernabeu tonight.

It was an odd team selection from Barca coach Pep Guardiola, with star midfielders Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas all left on the bench on an icy night at the Estadio Reyno de Navarra. Perhaps they were being rested ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Leverkusen, but whatever the reason, Barca were quickly made to pay by a clinical Dejan Lekic, who put Osasuno ahead after only four minutes.

The Serb doubled his tally in the 22nd minute to leave the Catalans with a mountain to climb and Guardiola reacted with a double substitution at the interval, replacing Puyol and Pedro with youngsters Cuenca and Tello. Their introduction brought new energy to the Barcelona attack and reaped instant dividends when Cuenca crossed for Sanchez to score from close range.

However, it was still a very open encounter and Barca took one risk too many at the back as they chased the game, allowing Raul Garcia to score with a neat first time finish that squeezed in off the foot of the near post. Guardiola then threw all remaining caution to the wind and replaced centre-back Pique with Fabregas in an all or nothing attempt to keep their title hopes alive.

It very nearly worked as Fabregas provided the assist for Tello to halve the deficit only two minutes after leaving the bench, giving Barca almost twenty minutes to chase an equaliser. However, the Osasuna defence stood firm and, baring one goal ruled out for a marginal offside decision, they effectively contained the attacking threat of Messi et al.

Elsewhere in La Liga, Bilbao missed out on a chance to move into the top four as they went down 2-1 away at Betis, Nelson scoring a late winner with the Basques having gone down to ten men following the dismissal of Javi Martinez in the 64th minute. The day’s other game saw a goalless draw between Racing Santander and Atletico Madrid played out at El Sardinero.

World Cup Final 2010: Spain 1-0 Holland (aet)

World Cup 2010 Final (Sunday 11th July 2010, K.O. 19:30 BST)
Venue: Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg
Conditions: Cloudy and dry. Temp: 14c, Wind 5.0m/s

Spain: 1 (Iniesta 116)
Holland: 0

TEAMS
Spain:
Casillas (C), Capdevila, Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Sergio, Alonso (Fabregas 87), Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro (Navas 60), Villa (Torres 106).
Holland: Stekelenburg, Van Bronckhorst (C) (Braafheid 105), Van Der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bommel, De Jong (Van Der Vaart 99), Sneijder, Kuyt (Elia 71), Robben, Van Persie.

Referee: Howard Webb (Rotherham, England)
Linesmen: Darren Cann & Michael Mullarkey

Spain beat Holland 1-0 in the 2010 World Cup final in Soccer City, Johannesburg to win the tournament for the first time in their history. Both teams had chances to win the game in normal time but an extra half hour was needed to separate them and Andres Iniesta crowned a magnificent performance with the winning goal only four minutes from the end.

There were no surprises in the Dutch line up for their third final appearance. Right-back Gregory Van Der Wiel returned from his one match ban to take the place of Boulahrouz and defensive midfielder Nigel De Jong was back from his suspension to replace De Zeeuw in the engine house of the Holland team meaning that coach Bert Van Marwijk was able to name his strongest eleven. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque had a selection dilemma in attack, eventually opting for Pedro, who impressed in the semi final, ahead of Fernando Torres, who has struggled since rushing back from injury to be fit for the finals. Therefore, Spain fielded an unchanged team from their win over Germany. On the celebrity front, Nelson Mandela was present in the stadium for Africa’s first final and Michel Platini made it too, having fainted in a restaurant on Friday night. Most importantly of all, Paul the Octopus predicted a Spain win, and he hadn’t been wrong yet this tournament. Unfortunately he couldn’t attend in person. England’s Howard Webb was appointed referee for the big occasion, three days before his 39th birthday.

Holland kicked off and their game plan was clear from the start, with three fouls conceded in the opening minutes. The first real chance came early on too, with Xavi whipping in a free kick from the right following one of those fouls. Ramos met it with his head and Stekelenburg needed to make a fine save to protect his clean sheet. Dirk Kuyt managed Holland’s first shot on target a couple of minutes later but it wasn’t hit hard enough to trouble Casillas. Ramos was having a busy start and he got forward again in the 11th minute, beating Kuyt as be broke into the box and struck a shot towards the far post, which was diverted over the bar by Heitinga. Villa had a shooting chance after the resulting corner and hit the side netting as Spain piled on the pressure. The Dutch were already struggling to keep up with the slick movement of their Spanish counterparts and Van Persie was booked for his second bad tackle on the quater hour mark when he took out Capdevila.

Carles Puyol demonstrated that Spain can mix it in a physical encounter when he brought down Holland’s danger man Arjen Robben a minute later to earn himself a yellow card and Wesley Sneijder was presented with his first chance to aim a free kick at Casillas’ goal. His powerful shot beat the wall but was too close to the Spanish ‘keeper. Mark Van Bommel got his own, much anticipated, booking in the 22nd minute for a terrible challenge from behind on Iniesta, and Ramos was similarly punished a minute later for a foul on Kuyt as the yellow card total began to mount up. De Jong claimed the fifth caution in the 28th minute and he was probably lucky not to be dismissed for a studs-up high foot into Alonso’s chest. The game calmed down a bit towards the end of the half with little more than a few long range efforts to note, the best of which was a snap shot from Robben following a corner but Casillas turned it around his near post to ensure parity at the interval.

Spain had an early chance in the second half with Puyol again dominant in the opposition box from a corner. His downward header across goal went through the legs of the Capdevila when any sort of touch could have found the net. The Spanish seemed to have come out of the dressing rooms with instructions to raise the tempo and accordingly Holland returned to their spoiling tactics with Van Bronckhorst and Heitinga both picking up cards to take the Dutch total to five. Del Bosque replaced Pedro with winger Jesus Navas, perhaps wanting to introduce a player who would run at defenders inducing fouls and potentially red cards.

The best chance of the game thus far came in the 62nd minute when Robben broke through one on one with Casillas and had plenty of time to pick his shot. However, the Spanish ‘keeper narrowed the angle well and saved with his right leg as Robben aimed a low shot towards the bottom left corner. With hindsight the Dutchman will probably wish he had tried to round the ‘keeper. Van Persie was the next player to nearly get in behind the Spanish defence but he was upended by Capdevila and the left back became the eighth man to enter the referee’s book.

Navas made his first major impact on the game in the 69th minute when he beat his man and played the ball low across the Dutch goal mouth where Heitinga could only deflect it into the path of David Villa. Spain’s top scorer was presented with perhaps the easiest chance he will get this tournament but his shot from point blank range was blocked by a desperate lunge from Heitinga. A corner from Xavi with a quarter of an hour to go presented Ramos with his third chance of the game as he rose unchallenged yet again to thump a bullet header just over the bar.

Robben had an almost identical one on one with Casillas in the 83rd minute when he easily outpaced a sluggish Puyol to steal the ball and bear down on goal although he was pulled back by the burly defender and could have gone down for a free kick which might have seen Puyol dismissed. However, he opted to stay on his feet and this time did try to go round Casillas but the ‘keeper was again off his line quickly and dived at Robben’s feet to gather the ball. Robben was then booked for his protests as he tried to convince the referee to bring back play for the foul.

Five minutes into extra time Spain had their own one on one opportunity when a superb through ball from Iniesta picked out substitute Cesc Fabregas but the midfielder couldn’t beat the outcoming Stekelenburg, who saved well with his legs. Fabregas returned the favour for Iniesta three minutes later but Iniesta was too slow to shoot and the ball was whipped away from him by Van Bronckhorst. Navas then had a shot from the corner of the box deflected off Van Bronckhorst and into the side netting with Stekelenburg diving the wrong way and yet another great chance went begging. All that last ditch defending must have taken its toll on Van Bronckhorst’s thirty-five year old legs as the Dutch captain was replaced by Edson Braafheid just before half time in extra time. It was his 106th and last appearance for the national team and the final professional appearance of his long and distinguished career as he retires following this tournament.

Vicente Del Bosque played his last card at the start of the second period of extra time, bringing on Torres for Villa in a bid to freshen up his attack. However it was Iniesta who forced the first mistake in the Dutch defence when he was pulled back by Heitinga chasing a ball over the top and the centre back received his second yellow card of the game to leave Holland with ten men for the final ten minutes. Xavi put the resulting free kick over the bar. Heitinga’s second yellow and one for Van Der Wiel minute later raised the Dutch total to nine.

The breakthrough finally came in the 116th minute when Fabregas found Andres Iniesta free in the box and the midfielder finally managed to put a shot past Stekelenburg. Spanish jubilation in one corner of the field was countered by Dutch protests in another as they argued they should have had a free kick for a foul on Elia but there was no chance of having this goal ruled out and there was hardly any time left for a Holland fight back. Spain held on and deservedly claimed the trophy with their fourth 1-0 win in a row.

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