Spain: Eighth Side In

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Let the vuvuzelas blow in welcoming La Roja to FIFA’s exclusive club.

Spain, with a goal by Andres Iniesta in the 116th minute, turned back The Netherlands to win the 2010 World Cup.

The Spaniards thus became the eighth nation to win the coveted golden trophy. The win also gave Europe 10 of the 19 FIFA tournament titles — South American nations have the other nine — and the first not won on the more friendly confines of The Continent. It also became the first team to hoist the Cup after losing its opener.

It was a game more chippy — a final’s record 14 yellow cards were assessed, the second of which on John Heitinga in the 109th minute, translated to red, which left the Dutch short a man for the balance of extra time — than thrilling.

Spain’s possession play left the Dutch chasing, tackling and fouling (nine times). Spain had the best chance — a header by defender Sergio Ramos off a cross from Xavi Hernandez in the fifth minute that goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg pushed aside - until Dutch forward Arien Robben was thwarted by Ike Casillas on a breakaway in the 62nd minute.

Breaking free inside the right-side of the penalty area, Iniesta fielded a pass from Cesc Fabregas, who had made things happen after entering the game as a midfield substitute. Iniesta put a right-footer past Stekelenburg, turning Oranje supporters’ eyes to red. Alas, the third time was not the charm for The Clockwork Orange, which suffered heartbreak in back-to-back finals in 1974 and 1978.

This time, the Dutch side — the only to win all of its Cup contests in South Africa until Sunday and riding a 25-game international unbeaten streak — fell to the pre-tournament favorites (in the eyes of many), as Spain backed up its Euro 2008 title with a win on Sunday that FIFA estimates was witnessed by some 700 million.

If their coverage of the U.S.’s loss to Ghana in the round of 16, ABC (14.9 million) and Univision (4.5 million) combined to average some 19.4 million watchers, one has to think Americans’ growing passion for soccer came through even though Sam’s Army wasn’t in the championship match.

Spain-Netherlands wasn’t very artistic, but it would be very disappointing if their July 11 final didn’t score with north of 20 million watchers for the U.S. rights-holders.