Four years ago in South Africa, Spain earned legions of admirers as their attractive passing style helped them to a maiden World Cup triumph. (Agencies)
But the Spanish victory was so nearly derailed by a bitterly contested final which saw the Netherlands try to disrupt their opponents with an overtly physical approach.
Nigel De Jong was lucky to stay on the pitch after planting his studs in Xabi Alonso's chest with a wild tackle, while Johnny Heitinga joined the elite band of players to have been sent off in a World Cup final for two yellow cards.
In all, the final produced some 47 fouls and 14 yellow cards, more than any other game in the 2010 tournament.
Yet in many ways, the 2010 final was tame compared to some of the more notorious episodes in the World Cup's wilder early history.
Since Placido Galindo was sent off for Peru at the 1930 World Cup -- the first player in tournament history to be dismissed -- a total of 159 players have been given their marching orders.
It was not until 1938 however that a World Cup match earned the dubious distinction of being branded a "battle", when Brazil and Czechoslovakia collided in a stormy quarter-final in Bordeaux.
A bruising encounter ended with three players sent off, while Czechoslovakia's forward Oldrich Nejedly suffered a broken leg and goalkeeper Frantisek Planicka was left with a broken arm.
Brazil were at the center of another notorious brawl in Switzerland in 1954, when their quarter-final against Hungary became immortalized as the "Battle of Berne."
The result, a 4-2 victory for Hungary, has become a footnote of a match which is a strong contender for the dirtiest game in World Cup history.
Four years ago in South Africa, Spain earned legions of admirers as their attractive passing style helped them to a maiden World Cup triumph.