"You get what you put in, and people get what they deserve." - Kid Rock
In a way, the country/ rock/ self-proclaimed hip-hopper from Detroit summed up the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final the best you possibly could. The underdog Dutch side, previously the only unbeaten team in the tournament along side New Zealand, came into the grandest stage in all of sports knowing not only that their Spanish opponents were the favorites, but that in order to win their first ever World Cup title they would have to resort to tactics of a thug-like mentality.
For 115 minutes on Sunday, the Dutch played an extremely physical, borderline dirty style of soccer and were able to match Spain possession for possession, chance for chance and yellow card for yellow card. Each side had a multitude of chances to score the game's opening goal and break the deadlock, but every shot on goal was turned away by keepers Iker Casillas and Maarten Stekelenburg of Spain and Holland, respectively. More so than the big-named midfielders and forwards for each team - all held in high regard for good reason - the men in the sticks were the ones that kept the game tight and nearly sent it to penalty kicks.
Then, the Dutch got what they deserved in a way. The side that accumulated 8 yellow cards over 120 minutes and had bruised, beaten and battered their opponents by design to throw them off their game and out of rhythym, got what was coming to them.
Andres Iniesta struck home a perfectly weighted pass by teammate Cesc Fabregas, who only found himself with the ball after a botched clearance attempt by Dutch midfielder Rafael Van der Vaart fell right at his feet. Fabregas slid the ball across the box to Iniesta, who took a touch that sent the ball bounding off the ground, which set Iniesta up for a shot that requires only the best of ball striking technique to control and direct.
"When I struck it, it just had to go in," Iniesta said.
Likely the Spanish superiority in most facets of the game would have eventually shown through and brought the Spaniards their first ever World Cup title, but the fact that the Dutch played such a criminal game couldn't have helped their karmic chances. It wasn't just Mark Van Bommel's sliding tackle that nearly ripped the legs of Iniesta off; it wasn't just Nigel De Jong's flying chest kick to the chest of Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso; nor was it just John Heitinga's sliding tackle on forward David Villa that left him rolling on the ground momentarily after the play.**
Disclaimer: The Spaniards were in no way innocent in the gimmick facet of this game. There were plenty of times that Spanish players went to ground easier than necessary in hopes of getting a foul call in an advanced position for a free kick. But, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. The Dutch put themselves in a position to be called for fouls often enough that they, once again, deserved it. Spain were the better team and deserved the victory.
The Dutch played from the beginning as if they knew they were supposed to lose and they were afraid to make a mistake to lose, which is a real shame with the level and amount of talent in their squad. Forward Arjen Robben, who had the best scoring chance of the game on a 62nd minute breakaway 1-v-1 with Casillas but was kick saved just wide of the post, really elevated his name this season with German club team Bayern Munich with a season that garnered FIFA World Player of the Year considerations. Midfielder Wesley Sneijder needed only one goal to break the deadlock with three others for the tournament's leading scorer. The talent and potential for the Dutch to be crowned world champions was there.
Yet, they subjected themselves to yet another (third) 2nd place finish in a World Cup final. While this World Cup final did little to vouch for soccer's claim as "the beautiful game," it failed not to deliver a frantic finish with a near buzzer-beating winner. One can only hope that come 2014, the final in Brazil boasts the same drama down to the very last second.