World Cup triumph marks year of the Spanish

A World Cup soccer final disfigured by cynical Dutch thuggery was partially redeemed in extra time by the swift reflexes of Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta.

London: A World Cup soccer final disfigured by cynical Dutch thuggery was partially redeemed in extra time by the swift reflexes of Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta.

Iniesta scored the only goal of the match to give Spain a deserved victory in Johannesburg`s Soccer City against a Netherlands side who sullied the legacy of their wonderful 1970s and `80s teams.
Defender John Heitinga was sent off and there were seven other Dutch bookings at the climax of a tournament which failed to catch fire in the chill of the South African winter.

Spain, who had under-achieved at the international level before winning the 2008 European title, rebounded from losing their opening game with Iniesta and Xavi weaving intricate patterns in midfield.

Apart from five goals to David Villa, the Spaniards` finishing did not match their creativity. Eight goals overall from seven matches, the lowest tally by a champion side at a World Cup, told its own story.

South Africa`s overwhelming concern was to stage a safe tournament in a violent country.

Terrorism was also a pressing concern. The ease with which sports events can be disrupted had been exposed before the Cup when gunmen killed two members of Togo`s delegation as they travelled to the African Nations Cup in Angola.

To everybody`s relief, organisers were able to report at the end of the month-long World Cup that there had been no murders, rapes or carjackings related to the tournament let alone any acts of terrorism.

In response, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge felt able to tell reporters in Durban at year`s end that the republic was capable of hosting a first African Games.
Soccer`s world governing body FIFA had already decided to take their World Cup to new territories by choosing Russia`s vast expanses as the 2018 hosts followed by the tiny emirate of Qatar four years later.

A joint bid for the 2018 Cup by Spain and Portugal, two countries entangled in the euro zone debt crisis, fell by the wayside but otherwise Spaniards had plenty to celebrate.

Rafa Nadal, who continues to add subtlety and variety to his relentless physicality, collected grand slam tennis titles on clay in Paris, grass at Wimbledon and a hard court at the U.S. Open while Alberto Contador won the Tour de France cycling classic for the third time.

There was a darker side to Spain`s otherwise triumphal year. Contador tested positive for the anabolic steroid clenbuterol during the Tour and world women`s steeplechase champion Marta Dominguez was named as a suspected drug trafficker in a Spanish civil guard investigation. Both denied any wrongdoing.
Another potential Spanish champion Fernando Alonso watched his Formula One title hopes evaporate when German Sebastian Vettel led from start to finish in Abu Dhabi. The Red Bull driver, who had trailed Ferrari`s Alonso by 15 points before the final Grand Prix of the season, won by four points.

While Vettel celebrated, seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher`s comeback season had already ended. The 41-year-old German spun his Mercedes on the opening lap in Abu Dhabi and was struck by Force India`s Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Schumacher was one of a trio of great athletes who had ruled the world at the turn of the century but who were now increasingly facing the ravages of time and fortune.

The most spectacular fall from grace came in the person of Tiger Woods who was forced to confess at the start of the year that newspaper revelations of serial infidelity were true.

Woods subsequently lost his wife, his meticulously crafted image as an all-American hero, which had been worth millions in corporate sponsorship, and the world number one ranking he had held for more than five years.

He also failed to win a PGA title for the first time since joining the tour in 1996.

Woods showed glimpses of his best form in the Ryder Cup staged in pelting autumn rain at Celtic Manor in Wales but even he could not prevent Europe from defeating the United States in the biennial team event by a single point.

Seven-times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong crashed out of this year`s race when he fell on the Col de la Ramaz during the eighth stage. He eventually finished in 23rd place.

Armstrong returned to the Tour last year after retiring in 2005 and finished a creditable third to Contador. After this year`s disappointments the 39-year-old American conceded that the indomitable will which had helped him to overcome cancer was no longer sufficient and said he would stop competing in Europe.

A Canadian doctor who treated Woods after knee surgery is being investigated for allegedly providing performance-enhancing drugs to American athletes.

Armstrong is being investigated after former team mate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour title after a positive test for testosterone, accused the Texan of taking prohibited substances.

Scandal also tainted cricket in a year dominated by England who beat Australia in the Twenty20 World Cup at the start of the year and took the lead in the Ashes series as the year drew to a close before being routed by the Australians in the third Test.

Pakistan test captain Salman Butt and his two opening bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif will learn next month the results of an inquiry into newspaper allegations that they deliberately manipulated incidents in the fourth test against England at Lord`s.

Canada had a good start to 2010 by taking a record 14 golds at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, including an immensely satisfying win over the United States in the ice hockey final.

The opening of the Games was overshadowed by the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training crash.

Bureau Report