English official earns his place at WCup final

Published Jul. 10, 2010 8:07 p.m. ET

Ask Gianluigi Buffon how good World Cup final match official Darren Cann is at doing his job.

Cann is one of the two linesmen assisting referee Howard Webb when they take charge of the final between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City on Sunday.

At a tournament marked by high-profile errors from match officials, the English trio excelled in controlling Italy's 3-2 loss to Slovakia in a group match as Buffon watched injured from the bench.

Italy needed a draw to advance, and thought it leveled a tense match in the 85th minute until Cann raised his flag on a tight offside call that shapes as one of the best made in South Africa.

Buffon doubted what he saw in real time and hurried into the players' tunnel to find a television and second guess the decision.

One minute later, the Italy goalkeeper was back holding his right thumb and index finger barely apart to show teammates how far Fabio Quagliarella had strayed offside, and how accurate Cann's naked eye had been.

A matter of millimeters, Buffon said later.


''That's all we're trying to do: Make the correct calls,'' the 41-year-old former bank officer told The Associated Press on Saturday. ''We heard after the game that the Italy coach sent somebody off the bench to go and check, and he came back and confirmed the decision was correct. Therefore there was no protest.''

There was no protest either when Cann judged that Quagliarella's earlier shot was blocked by Slovakia defender Martin Skrtel before the ball crossed the line.

Goal-line technology and video replays have been hot topics with intensified demands on FIFA to give match officials more high-tech help.

Cann is content to rely on his own judgment.

''For me, television replay is my friend,'' he said. ''I have no fear of the broadcasters and the media - more often than not they have proved our decision was right.''

Cann and fellow assistant Mike Mullarkey have worked with Webb since preparing for the 2008 European Championship. They have combined on three strong matches in South Africa, including Spain's 1-0 loss to Switzerland, and when Brazil beat Chile 3-0 in the second round.

Most World Cup officials have day jobs at home, but Cann has been employed by England's football authorities as a full-time assistant referee for the past two seasons.

Cann was a goalscoring forward who signed youth contracts with hometown team Norwich City and London club Crystal Palace before training as an official.

His modest, quiet manner perhaps better suits the role of a top-level assistant, and has taken Cann to the top of the game.

In May, Webb's team efficiently handled the Champions League final; seven weeks later they will work the world's most-watched sports event.

''If you would have told me two months ago we would be at the World Cup final,'' Cann said, ''I would not have believed you.''