Goal.com's Subhankar Mondal salutes the pale-skinned Spanish star from Albacete.....
While watching Andres Iniesta break Dutch hearts with a smashing right-foot shot on Sunday, you must have been transported back in time to that night at Stamford Bridge. And indeed, you would be pardoned for believing that on Sunday night at the Soccer City Stadium, you were watching a recap of the goal that broke Chelsea's heart.
That night too the goal came right at the death. At Stamford Bridge Iniesta scored with his right foot after being part of the move, at Soccer City he scored with his right foot after being part of the move. At Stamford Bridge the pass came from the left, at Soccer City, the pass came from the left. After scoring against Chelsea he ran towards the left corner with his shirt ripped off. After scoring against the Netherlands he ran towards the left corner with his shirt ripped off.
Comparing the two Iniesta goals is like comparing the movies Brothers and Pearl Harbour: both subconsciously similar in their sub-plots but distinctly different in their themes.
Against Chelsea Iniesta had scored from just outside the penalty area; against the Netherlands he was inside the penalty area. At Stamford Bridge he scored with his first touch of the ball; at Soccer City he scored with his second touch of the ball. Against Chelsea he was forced to remove his shirt by spontaneity and instinct; against the Netherlands he removed his shirt to dedicate the goal to his beloved late friend Dani Jarque.
The Reluctant Star
Neither goal was exactly a typical Spanish goal as you would have come to identify it, but both were massively important in Spanish football history. The goal in the final of the World Cup cannot be overstated at all and although it would be a hyperbole to suggest that the goal against Chelsea was Barcelona's most imporant in 2008-09, it was indeed the strike that pushed the Catalan club towards history: the first Spanish club ever to win the treble.
And both goals were scored by the most un-Spanish of players. Andres Iniesta's pasty pale skin colour isn't exactly what you would associate with Mediterranean or Iberian men, and he is not remotely handsome or comely. He doesn't party hard, doesn't get seduced by the media and keeps a low profile. In fact, at times you wonder whether the 26-year-old is actually a footballer - maybe he just plays once in a while....
Oh, you wish! Rather, the Dutch wish! Not only does Iniesta play all the time, he is terrifyingly good at it. Better than most, in fact.
The World Cup Contribution
The Fuentealbilla-born midfielder provided the 'pass of the summer' against Poland in Spain's final international friendly before heading off to South Africa, but suffered an injury before the first half had ended. Yet the 26-year-old's World Cup campaign didn't suffer much.
Iniesta was scintillating when he had the ball at his feet against Switzerland; against Chile and Portugal he was Spain's creator-in-chief from the midfield, against Paraguay it was his move that led to David Villa's winner and against Germany his intelligence overran the opposition's defensive unit.
Iniesta is one of those players whose position is hard to define: he doesn't exactly play in the midfield and he is not a traditional winger: he is more of a 'floater'. And it is not easy to mark a 'floater' - ask the Chelsea and Netherlands defenders.
Former Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard once said: "I played him as a false winger, central midfielder, deep midfielder and just behind the striker and he was always excellent," while Spain coach Vicente del Bosque defines him as "the complete footballer".
Iniesta was Spain's most consistent player in the World Cup, even though David Villa was their most important in front of goal. But while the most complete centre-forward on the planet missed chances and struggled as the lone striker up front, Iniesta was always willing to slice his way through the opposition backline.
Of course, you could argue that anyone could have scored from Iniesta's position against the Netherlands - and you wouldn't be too wrong. But remember, at the other end Arjen Robben had two one-on-ones and he made a mess on both occasions, and Fernando Torres missed enough sitters in the World Cup to have won the Golden Boot.
But Iniesta is not the one to miss, especially not when it comes to breaking opposition hearts with a late goal. Rosario Central in the Nike Premier Cup final in 1999, Chelsea in 2009 and now the Netherlands. Who's next on the list?
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