World Cup

Webb falls short of his perfect standard

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Referee Howard Webb was heavily criticized by the Netherlands team for awarding Spain its winning goal and his failure to send off defender Carles Puyol on Sunday in the most ill-disciplined World Cup final in history.

Webb booked 13 different players and sent off John Heitinga after showing the Netherlands defender a second yellow card in extra time of the Dutch team's 1-0 loss at Soccer City.

Spain vs Netherlands


No matter who you root for, you'll want to check out the best action from the World Cup final between Holland and Spain.

But the English official failed to show a second yellow card to Puyol when he appeared to impede Arjen Robben in the 82nd minute, allowing Robben to play on and miss his chance to score.

Instead, Robben saw yellow after furiously chasing after Webb to remonstrate with him.

"He has to send him (Puyol) off and give a free kick. In the end, there is no advantage," Robben said. "For me, it is very clear: that after such a game when you sit in the dressing room there is only talking about the referee, and I think that's a bad point.

"If you play a World Cup final, you need a world-class referee. I don't know if today was a world-class performance from the referee."

Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said he didn't think Webb controlled the game well.

"I don't look at referees but if I look at the ... chance of Arjen then (Puyol) should have been given a second yellow, too," Van Marwijk said.

The 14 yellow cards, one leading to a red, was a record for a World Cup final, beating the six collected by Argentina and West Germany players in 1986. Eight different Dutchmen were booked, five from Spain.

At the final whistle, Netherlands midfielders Mark van Bommel and Wesley Sneijder headed directly toward the referee.

Robben, who was booked for protesting that he was fouled by Puyol, joined in as defender Joris Mathijsen rushed over to gesticulate angrily at the referee.

All were upset at a decision which indirectly led to Spain's winning goal.

From a Dutch free kick, Sneijder's shot was deflected wide but Webb awarded a goal kick and Spain broke forward to score through Andres Iniesta with four minutes left in extra time.

"We don't have the Cup and that's the reason why we're here," Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg said. "You can blame the referee. Everybody outside the stadium can see it was a corner, but he didn't and the assistant also (missed it).

Sneijder agreed that the goal came from a clear incorrect decision.

"First the wall touched it, and after that the goalkeeper touched it, so it was clear corner kick," Sneijder said.

Webb was subjected to more Dutch derision when he went to collect his cup final medal.

A chorus of jeers and whistles rained down from the stands when Webb led his assistants Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey to receive their gifts from South Africa President Jacob Zuma and FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Webb brandished his first yellow card in the 15th minute when Netherlands forward Robin van Persie caught Spain left back Joan Capdevila with a late challenge, as the Dutch team tried to break up Spain's rhythmic passing style.

So began a tit-for-tat exchange of five bookings in 14 minutes as Van Bommel, teammate Nigel De Jong, Spain defenders Sergio Ramos and Puyol also went into Webb's book.

In the second half, the snappy, scrappy pattern of play continued and so, therefore, did the yellow cards.

Sun., Jul. 11
Netherlands 0-1(aet) Spain | Recap

Dutch captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Heitinga were next, then Capdevila for fouling Robben.

In a breakaway in the second period of extra time, Heitinga leaned his arm across Fernando Torres to earn his second yellow. It was the first time Webb had produced a red card at this World Cup in his fourth match.

The 38-year-old Webb is one of the few full-time referees in world football, taking a lengthy leave of absence from the South Yorkshire police force.

He worked his way back to the top of his profession after being sent home early from the 2008 European Championship, after missing an offside call in a group match which is remembered for a stoppage-time penalty that earned him death threats from Polish fans.

He was awarded control of the World Cup final after near-faultless handling of three previous games in which he showed 17 yellow cards.

Webb was widely praised for his player-management skills while showing four yellows to each team in a tense group match when Slovakia eliminated defending champion Italy with a 3-2 victory.

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