A perfect season for Wesley Sneijder turned sour, minutes from its happy conclusion.
Instead of a perfect sweep of Italian league, cup, Champions League and World Cup titles, the biggest game of the year escaped him.
“I won three titles (this season) and now I lost tonight the fourth title,” Sneijder said after Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 in the World Cup final on a goal four minutes away from a penalty shootout.
And after excelling with five goals and countless passes in the first six games of the tournament, he was a dud in the final. He made a great deep pass to Arjen Robben that needed a sterling save from Iker Casillas, and made a good defensive block.
But unlike the previous games, this was not Sneijder’s time.
“It’s a pity but I think we can be proud of it, the whole country,” Sneijder said.
He would have been the first European to achieve such an incredible quadruple. Instead there were tears, sour grapes and so much bile.
Sneijder was lucky to escape a yellow card for an ugly high tackle on Sergio Busquets on the stroke of halftime yet, from then on, he kept on targeting referee Howard Webb.
He claimed Andres Iniesta should have been red carded for a foul on Mark van Bommel, well before the midfielder scored the winner.
“There was a moment with Iniesta, he kicked Van Bommel when the ball was not there,” Sneijder said. “The fourth official saw the moment and he said, ‘Yeah, I saw it.’ I think if you saw it it’s a red card.”
He claimed the Dutch should have had a corner just ahead of the attack that led to Iniesta’s goal.
“First the wall touched it, and after that the goalkeeper touched it, so it was clear corner kick,” Sneijder said.
“It is a scandal it has to end this way,” he added.
When faced with the nasty Dutch play, which earned them nine yellow cards and the dismissal of John Heitinga, his memory was a lot less clear.
“At this moment I cannot think very well, we just lost the World Cup final,” Sneijder said.
Straight after the final whistle, Sneijder joined Van Bommel in making a beeline for referee Howard Webb and launching into a tirade.
Sneijder then walked away and sat alone on the field, arms folded on knees. Sergio Ramos later hugged Sneijder.
It was not the hug he wanted. Instead he wanted to be embraced by the whole nation, the first Dutch playmaker to win the World Cup.
It was a small solace that Sneijder scored the same number of goals – five - as Golden Boot winner Thomas Mueller of Germany.
Keywords: 2010 FIFA World Cup