Howard Webb hampered by tempestuous World Cup final
The World Cup final should have been remembered for Andres Iniesta’s fabulously executed finish or Iker Casillas’s outstanding saves.
Yet the name on everyone’s lips was that of English referee, Howard Webb.
It was a match overshadowed by Webb’s whistle. At certain points he controlled the final with an iron-fisted brutality, but in other crucial moments he displayed surprising charity.
His performance caused much debate amongst football fans across the world. The orange half of the stadium erupted in jeers when Webb and his colleagues collected their medals after the final whistle.
But the physical nature which the Dutch used to handle the threat of the silky Spanish left Webb little room to manoeuvre.
His hard stance was required to maintain control over a tempestuous match which threatened to explode on a number of occasions.
He issued eight cautions and a red card to the eventual runners-up, but the Netherland’s supporters appeared to have forgotten Webb’s earlier leniency.
In the first half Dutch enforcer Nigel de Jong should have been dismissed for a horrific challenge on Xabi Alonso. The Spanish maestro described the tackle as “one of the worst” he has ever experienced.
Additionally, one could argue that Mark van Bommel’s repeated indiscretions merited a red card. The Bayern Munich midfielder received a booking for a cynical challenge on Iniesta but escaped further punishment despite his persistent fouling.
Van Bommel has mastered the art of making a deliberate foul look innocuous. It is difficult to fathom how the 33-year-old evaded a red card throughout the entire 120-minutes, not to mention seven World Cup matches.
Dutch barbarism was added to by the unsportsmanlike behaviour of the Spanish players.
Xavi and Sergio Busquets questioned many of Webb’s decisions with both midfielders constantly invading his space, gesticulating furiously and demanding punishment for their unruly opponents.
The Premier League has recently seen an improvement when it comes to players accepting decisions made by officials. Seemingly, its Spanish equivalent requires development in this area.
The Netherlands were understandably infuriated by Webb’s incompetence when he failed to award a corner from a deflected Wesley Sneijder free-kick. And this blunder was shortly followed by another when Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique appeared to foul Eljero Elia.
Spain recovered possession, and after a sweeping move, Iniesta fired home the winning goal.
It was a difficult final for any referee to control. Even the revered Pierluigi Collina, a supporter of Webb, would have struggled to exercise authority while maintaining the flow of the game.
Webb’s international reputation has certainly suffered a setback. Last Sunday’s final will appear as a blemish on his CV and it is a shame after the competent job the Englishman did at the Bernabeu last May for the Champions League final.
He will remain as one of the most respected referees in the Premier League, despite some indifferent performances last season.
Meanwhile those clad in orange on Sunday should reflect upon their missed chances, not Webb’s perceived fallacy.