JOHANNESBURG — Spain's place among world football's all-time greatest teams was assured Sunday when Andres Iniesta scored with four minutes of extra time remaining to beat the Netherlands 1-0 and clinch his country's first World Cup.
With the teams facing a penalty shootout after an often ill-tempered game of few clear chances, Iniesta collected a sliding pass into the area from substitute Cesc Fabregas and smashed the ball across goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg and in at the far post.
The goal clinched Spain's fourth straight 1-0 victory in South Africa and made the team only the third to be world and European champion at the same time.
"This really is quite a cup," Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas said. "The European Championship was the most important moment of our lives, but today is much bigger than anything else."
At the final whistle, the Spanish players hurried to swap their blue shirts for their more familiar red colors in time to collect the trophy. They donned shirts decorated with a single gold star to mark their triumph, becoming the eighth nation to receive the honor in the tournament's 80-year history.
"I can't quite believe it yet," said Iniesta, who was voted man of the match. "I had the opportunity to score that goal which was so important to my team. It's something absolutely incredible. I simply made a small contribution to my team in a match that was very rough."
The Dutch players trudged forlornly to collect their runners-up medals, the third squad from the Netherlands to finish second in football's biggest game.
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk took off his silver medal as soon as left the podium, with a look of disgust on his face at having failed to better the "Total Football" generation that lost the 1974 and '78 finals.
"We had our plan and of course we tried to play our football, but Spain is a very great team with a lot of great players," Netherlands winger Arjen Robben said. "We tried to stop them offensively.
"We've done everything we could today."
It was a less-than-classic performance by Spain and both teams created few clear chances at Soccer City, although the game opened up slightly after a cagey opening hour. The Netherlands broke up Spain's attempts to get its famous passing game going with physical play that brought nine yellow cards.
Defender John Heitinga got his second yellow and was sent off in the 19th minute of extra time to become only the fifth man to get a World Cup final red card.
With Spain also collecting five yellows, the total beat the 1986 record of six between Argentina and West Germany and made it the dirtiest World Cup final of all time.
"There were all sorts of things happening on the pitch," Iniesta said.
Extra time was littered with almost as many chances as normal time. Stekelenburg saved a low shot by Fabregas before Robben was blocked and defender Joris Mathijsen headed over at the other end.
With Wesley Sneijder crowded out and Spain striker David Villa continually forced wide in search of possession, Robben looked the most likely player to put the finishing touch to his team's uncompromisingly physical approach.
The winger broke free in the 62nd minute but his low shot to the far post was brilliantly kept out with the toe of Casillas' right boot.
He was clear again with seven minutes of normal time remaining, collecting Robin van Persie's flick from Nigel de Jong's hopeful punt forward. Robben held off Carles Puyol's attempts to wrestle him to the ground and tried to take the ball across Casillas, only for the goalkeeper to gather it at the forward's feet.
Villa and Sneijder had few chances to add to their five tournament goals, the latter unable to find his range with free kicks and most notable for the sliding pass between Spain's central defenders that set Robben free in the 62nd.
Villa went closest in the 70th when Stekelenburg somehow knocked his close-range finish over the bar, shortly before Sergio Ramos headed over the bar while unmarked.
Villa, Sneijder, Uruguay striker Diego Forlan and Germany forward Thomas Mueller tied at the top of the tournament scoring charts with five goals from seven matches. Mueller took the golden boot for the leading scorer, winning because of the number of assists he provided.
The Netherlands' physical approach only began after its attempt to defend deep in the opening exchanges allowed Spain 60 percent of possession and gave away chances. Stekelenburg had to dive at full stretch to keep out a header by Ramos, and Villa broke free of the defense only for the Netherlands to be saved by a narrow offside call.
The Dutch responded by pressing hard whichever Spanish player happened to be in possession, heralding a spell of five yellow cards — three of them for the Netherlands — in 14 minutes.
De Jong was lucky not to get a red card when he slammed his boot into Xabi Alonso's chest.
"They made it very difficult for us to play comfortably," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. "It was a very intense match."
But one incident showed the Dutch fouls were perhaps down to surplus passion rather than a premeditated mean streak.
Casillas threw the ball upfield and out to allow Puyol to receive treatment after a heavy fall. In keeping with sporting convention, the Netherlands attempted to return possession to the Spanish but the punt back to Casillas deflected up off the turf and forced the goalkeeper to tip it behind for a corner.
Not a single Netherlands player went forward for the corner kick and Van Persie just rolled it along the ground for Casillas to pick up.
"Our fouls may be sad for a final," Van Marwijk said, "(but) I would have loved to win it with not so beautiful football."