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World's press praises Spain

13 July 2010-AAP

Spain earned global media respect and praise for its FIFA World Cup triumph in a bruising final against Netherlands that added an eighth nation to the list of winners.

'Spain Reign The Game' said The Times of London with a front-page headline that spread Spain's red and gold national flag across the top. 'Campeon del Mundo', declared the French sports daily L'Equipe.

"Spain cemented their position as the pre-eminent footballing nation of the era," The Times said of the nation's first World Cup win, which it added to its 2008 European championship triumph.

But newspapers around the world also highlighted the often brutal tactics used in the match played out in front of a television audience estimated at 700 million people.

Spain prevailed 'with great patience and an accustomed sense of drama' with the only goal by Andres Iniesta just four minutes from the end of extra-time, said the New York Times which said the final 'will be remembered more for meanness than splendour'.

"The Dutch intended to take Spain away from its graceful passing game. And they frequently did, sometimes with brutal intent. Still, Spain showed hardness of its own, becoming unnerved at times but never discouraged."

L'Equipe, which severely criticised English referee Howard Webb, said the match was marked by 'intimidation and destruction'.

It said two Dutch players should have been sent off in the first 30 minutes for fouls including Dutch midfield Nigel de Jong's kickboxing-style lunge at Xabi Alonso.

In the end only Dutchman Johnny Heitinga got his marching orders and by then the 90 minutes were nearly over.

China's media congratulated Spain for its first-ever World Cup victory, but also took a few swipes at how the final degenerated into violence.

"Fourteen yellows, one red - the most-ever in a final,", one of China's top internet portals, said in a headline on a story about the struggles of the referees at the World Cup.

The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia commented how Spain 'held their nerve, their tempers and their discipline through 120 bruising minutes against a physically tough Dutch side who kicked, scrapped and tried - ultimately without success - to intimidate them from playing the possession football that has so entranced the football world during this tournament'.

Spain's media was quite naturally delirious. "The national team has consolidated the leadership of a dazzling generation," said the top-selling El Pais daily.

The Dutch press expressed disappointment and sadness after the Netherlands' third defeat in a World Cup final.

'The 'Oranje' cry', said a headline in orange in the popular AD daily over a full-page photograph of Wesley Sneijder lying on the pitch, his face hidden in his arms.

The popular daily De Telegraf paid a glowing hommage to the team, saying it had fought 'like lions'. "What will it take for the Netherlands to one day finally become champions of the world of football?" it asked.

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