By the time the 2010 World Cup final had kicked off, the tournament had already been panned as being one of the most lacklustre in history but there was one last hope that a clash between Holland and Spain could save it.
There were grounds for that. A disappointing event in South Africa largely down to negative tactics, a controversial Jabulani football and a psychic octopus revealing spoilers before matches were played could still be forgotten if two of football’s great entertainers could and produce a classic in Johannesburg.
Holland with their DNA of Total Football that made them a force in the global game from the 1970s onwards were up against a Spain side arguably at their peak, with their brand of tiki-taka football having taken them from one of the biggest chokers at major tournaments to one of the most feared following their Euro 2008 success.
The 2010 World Cup final proved a bad tempered affair between Holland and Spain, with Nigel de Jong fortunate to escape serious punishment following his foul on Xabi Alonso
Holland defender John Heitinga was sent off during extra-time in South Africa
Andres Iniesta went on to grab the winning goal for Spain to crown them world champions
In the two hours that followed instead of kicking the ball they kicked each other and after thirteen yellow cards and a red card for John Heitinga, it was Spain who scraped by thanks to Andres Iniesta’s late winner. At the time we could have put the awful spectacle down to the influence of the poor tournament but it appears now the faintest of cracks were developing among two famous names in European as well as global football.
Spain of course didn’t fall away immediately, they were just as dominant two years later at Euro 2012, but it proved to be just a final fling with glory and since their shock group stage exit in Brazil as world champions in 2014 they have not looked the same.
Holland meanwhile were one of those that swatted Spain to one side as they galloped to third place in South America but we haven’t seen them since.
Iniesta lifts the World Cup for Spain in Johannesburg but Spain have largely struggled since and have not won a major knock-out game for eight years
Holland got revenge four years later when in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, Robin van Persie’s famous diving header earned them a 5-1 victory in Brazil
The two sides meet again on Wednesday in Amsterdam away from the global lights, as they face off in a friendly to try and get back on track ahead of Euro 2020 next year.
Spain have just one survivor who featured in the World Cup final 10 years ago in Sergio Ramos, but the stars including Xavi, Iniesta and Xabi Alonso have not been replaced to keep the midfield ticking over – even if that was always going to prove a difficult task.
Key stalwarts in defence including Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique have also moved on while attacking depth with David Villa and Fernando Torres is just a faded memory by now.