“As the ball came to me, I knew it was a now-or-never moment - that if we didn’t win the World Cup now, we never would.”
It is minute 116 of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Final, and these weighty thoughts place an additional psychological burden on the weary legs of Andres Iniesta. In a tough and tense match of precious few chances, he has just been presented with Spain’s best.
For once, his first touch does not provide instant control. Now, if La Roja are to win the Trophy for the first time and avoid the agony of a penalty shootout, his second – with the ball bouncing awkwardly – must be perfect.
“As soon as the ball connected with my foot, I knew the goalkeeper had no chance,” was how the Barcelona star reflected on what happened next. “That moment was perfect.”
Iniesta’s sweetly struck shot was low, hard and past Maarten Stekelenburg before the Netherlands keeper had a chance to throw out a hand. Later, asked about the goal, the midfielder would reflect modestly: "I made a small contribution in a very tough game." But with Spain a goal up and the Dutch down to ten men, that contribution effectively determined the destination of football’s most coveted prize.
Yet even at the greatest moment of his career, having just scored a World Cup-winning goal, Iniesta’s thoughts were not of himself, nor his country. That was shown when he ripped off his jersey to reveal an undershirt with the message* ‘Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros’* (Dani Jarque always with us) in memory of the former Espanyol player, who had died the year before.
"We wanted to feel his strength,” Iniesta would later explain. “We wanted to pay tribute to him in the world of football and that was the best opportunity to do so.”
Did you know?
*The FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich features an interactive ‘Be a commentator’ box, where you can record your own commentary of the last three World Cup Finals’ winning goals – Iniesta’s included. After recording, you can then listen back and compare to the original TV commentary in various languages.
— FIFA Museum (@FIFAMuseum) March 24, 2016