On this day: Spain beat Netherlands in 2010 World Cup final

Three years ago today, Spain beat the Netherlands to win the World Cup for the first time.

After winning the European Championship in 2008, Spain were soon regarded as the best footballing nation in the world.

Their triumph in Austria and Switzerland moved them to the top of the FIFA world rankings, and apart from a couple of months here and there, they held that position as they prepared to travel to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.

The World Cup was something that had remained elusive to La Roja since its creation in 1930, with their best performance being fourth place in 1950.

Spain began this campaign as the tournament favourites, and despite slipping to a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in their opening game, they negotiated their way through to the final with three consecutive 1-0 victories during the knockout stages.

Standing in their way in Johannesburg were the Netherlands, who were unbeaten in the competition and had dispatched of Brazil and Uruguay to set up a showdown with their European compatriots.

The opening 45 minutes at Soccer City were lacking in quality, and somewhat marred by an unfamiliar physical battle between the two teams.

Netherlands' Nigel de Jong fouls Spain's Xabi Alonso during the World Cup final on July 11, 2010© AP Photos

English referee Howard Webb handed out a total of five yellow cards in the opening 28 minutes, which included a dangerous high boot from Nigel de Jong on Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso.

De Jong's studs connected with the chest of Alonso, but Webb controversially deemed the incident to only warrant a yellow, rather than a red.

The Netherlands began the second half with more urgency, and they were denied a goal when Arjen Robben's one-on-one effort was deflected away by Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

That brought a response from Vicente del Bosque's men, with David Villa seeing a close-range effort superbly blocked by the Netherlands stopper Maarten Stekelenburg.

Sergio Ramos also spurned an opportunity to earn hero status with his nation by sending a free header from 10 yards over the crossbar.

Spain's Andres Iniesta celebrates after scoring during the 2010 World Cup Final on July 11, 2010© AP Photos

The match entered extra time with Spain in the ascendancy, but Stekelenburg kept his side in the match again with a sprawling save from Cesc Fabregas.

The Netherlands suffered a blow in the 109th minute when Johnny Heitinga became just the fifth player to be dismissed in a World Cup final, but Oranje attempted to attack their opponents.

However, they were dealt a sucker-punch with four minutes remaining, when Fabregas played the ball to the right of the penalty area to Andres Iniesta, who powered the ball into the bottom corner from eight yards.

The goal resulted in exuberant celebrations from Spanish supporters, but there was despair on the faces of the Netherlands players, who rightly felt that they should have won a corner shortly before the goal.

In the aftermath, plenty was said about the goal and a record number of 14 yellow cards in a World Cup final, but this match will forever be the night when Spain cemented their dominance at the top of international football.

Brazil's Fred celebrates scoring against Uruguay during their Confederations Cup semi final match on June 26, 2013
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