Howard Webb Deserves Credit for Strong World Cup Performance

Referee Howard Webb issues another yellow card..FIFA World Cup 2010 Final..Netherlands v Spain..11th July, 2010.

He may have awarded 14 yellow cards and 1 red, which realistically could have been more, but I believe Howard Webb deserves a fair bit of credit for his performance in the World Cup final. Currently, Webb is facing a decent amount of criticism from both the Dutch and Spanish sides, media types and football fans world wide. But why?

In fairness, Webb may have made 1 or 2 mistakes, Nigel de Jong should definitely have seen red for his kung fu style chest kick on Xabi Alonso, but overall, and in the grand scheme of the game, Webb was dealt a terribly difficult hand by the cynical nature of the Dutch players who set up negatively and set out to destroy any hope of a free flowing match. That very fact is a shame in and of itself because of the attacking talent the Dutch side possess.

Every decision Webb made to show yellow was in fact justified. How can anyone criticize Webb for simply following the rules of the game and showing yellow cards when the fouls were so deserved of a caution? All too often in football the referee is blamed for a terrible performance, for losing control of a match, or for bottling it while certain players attempt and get away with nothing short of murder while the ref is left to rue his decisions.

The Dutch, led by Bayern Munich captain Mark van Bommel turned the midfield of the pitch at Soccer City into a minefield of rash tackles, mindless aggression and a negative brand of football the great Dutch fans never thought they’d see. Rinus Michels must be rolling over in his grave, while Johann Cryuff must be happy he’s away managing Catalonia after viewing such a contemptuous display. 

After such a disheartening loss in the World Cup final, the Dutch must now ask themselves whether they prefer defeat at the hands of Spain and such a negative set up, or a defeat more ambitious, a defeat like that of their Euro 2008 exit at the hands of the Russians. In Dutch football, questions must soon be asked hopefully followed by answers that lend hope and attacking flair to the Dutch who hold such an important part of football history in their hearts.

As tackles flew in from the opening stages of the match, Webb attempted to let the game flow by not brandishing yellow cards. As the rough play further escalated, Webb had no choice but to pull caution after caution in attempts to gain back control from the reckless players on both sides. Webb’s decision to caution the first few players deserved of one seemed to not matter as reckless tackle after reckless tackle broke any flow that was established in the first half.

Where I believe many in the media are wrong in their criticism of Webb is simply placing all or most of the blame on Webb’s shoulders when it was the players, specifically the Dutch, who must hold the majority of the blame for their actions in attempting to stifle the game and nick a goal on the counter. A feat they so narrowly missed from achieving.

Shocking as it was because of the nature of the players on the pitch, only one red card was shown. Webb could have shown a second yellow to Arjen Robben for kicking the ball into the Spain net after play was blown dead, but he didn’t. Webb allowed the game to continue on without sending Robben off, another example of Webb’s poise and clear judgement in such a massive game. Had Webb shown a second yellow to Robben, he would have been crucified by the Dutch and many in the media for taking too much control of the game and favoring Spain over the Dutch. On such a grand stage, Webb, regardless of his decisions, seemingly unable to win.

No, Webb was not lenient, unfair, card happy, or failing in making the tough decisions the game so required. The players must take responsibility for their actions in a game that has allowed football to take a small step back, at least in this country, to winning over new soccer fans. The World Cup final now over and although it wasn’t one for the ages, it was no fault of Webb and his team but of the Dutch players and their preparation as they, not Webb, did in fact bottle it.

77 thoughts on “Howard Webb Deserves Credit for Strong World Cup Performance”

  1. I’m not sure what game you watched on Sunday but that was a pathetic crowning achievement in a WC full of ref blunders.

    How many dives did the Spanish team take? Heitenga’s 1st yellow Webb looked right at the play, only pulled the card after Villa flopped and barrel-rolled. 2nd yellow for Ineiesta tripping? Van Der Weil’s in the 111th Ineiesta wasn’t touched.

    And for the cherry on top, the ball goes off Cesc in the wall and the corner, I mean goal kick went to Spain and they scored.

    Embarrassing refereeing and your boy Webb should retire in shame like Anders Frisk

    1. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he should retire, but I was shocked at how many times Webb showed a card because of a Spanish player being on the ground…even though he didn’t know how they got there.

      Horrible amount of diving…what a disappointing match.

      1. Completely agree with these two comments. Every time a Dutch player made a challenge, a Spanish player ends up writhing on the ground and Webb runs calling a foul. The van der Wiel card was disgraceful.
        The worst for me was when Iniesta flopped, then when he didn’t get the call he wanted, he deliberately shoves van Bommel to the ground. Webb doesn’t even look at Iniesta.

    2. Brian/Jeff…In the cold light of day, the consensus of opinion is that the Dutch put aside their undisputed art of football and resorted to “bully boy” tactics. You have to ask yourself why would they employ the strategy they did if they were confident in their ability to outplay Spain? They had, remember, scored more goals in the tournament. My guess is that they took a decision to make it a war of attrition due to a lack of confidence in their own abilities and, to a lesser extent, remarks made by Howard Webb prior to the match. It’s always easy to find a scapegoat if your plan fails isn’t it.

      “Damned if he did..Damned if he didn’t”..that pretty much sums up Howard Webb’s unenviable position. I believe he made a “tactical” error in making it known he wanted a free-flowing game of football with him, to all intents and purposes, an observer and bystander. Surely what all footballers and football followers would want.

      It now seems that the Dutch took this as a signal that they could freely impose the physical side of their game to unhinge Spain’s midfield, literally! As you will recall, having watched the match, there were a number of heavy tackles at the outset which went unpunished. All in the laudable aim of free-flowing football.

      Had this been a group game played in similar fashion, I believe both Van Bommel and De Jong would have been sent off before the 1st half was over and the game would have effectively died a death. Imagine news reports, “Holland destroyed by Webb”. There can be no doubt the Dutch were set up to disrupt any flow the Spainards might create. Even Wesley Sneijer and Dirk Kuyt were employed in a negative fashion.

      The Dutch have only themselves to blame and should consider themselves very lucky to have ended the Final with 10 men. If the letter of the law had been applied, Robben too would have gone in the 2nd half for his petulant, childish mannerisms. All in all a sad, unforgiving and nonsensical display that must have the likes Johann Cruyff shaking his head in disbelief.

      I agree with Jesse and feel that Webb got almost all the major decisions right (save the sending offs) but I can equally see the fallout had he reduced Holland to 9 men. As I said above, “damned if he did..damned if he didn’t”. Football was the winner yesterday.

  2. you idiots are obviously netherlands fans. Webb did a good job with the fouling, cynical anti-football dutch team given it was the final.

  3. This article is spot on. The ref can be blamed for a few calls throughout the game, but on balance, it was a very good performance. You can’t possibly think the Dutch lost the game because of the referee. They certainly benefited immensely from Webb’s decision not to send off de Jong for the kick to Alonso’s chest. 28 fouls Holland committed. 28. That’s almost twice what both teams committed in the Spain-Germany semifinal combined. Brian, with all due respect, I’m not sure what game you watched. Holland showed a clear disrespect and disregard for the game and its rules and worked every step of the way to try and intimidate the referee. Their approach and game plan was cynical from the start and an embarrassment to a nation with such a fine footballing tradition.

    1. I’m rarely impressed with Webb’s performance, in general. I know FIFA disagrees with me.

      The fact is, Webb flashed a lot of cards, but never had much control against the fouling. Now, I don’t think the wrong team won and Webb’s performance wasn’t a game killer, but whenever he runs a game, he seems to do so ineffectively. He doesn’t make terrible calls, he just doesn’t manage the cards well.

    2. Have to agree with you Alfred. Webb kept control when Holland was clearly trying to knock the Spain side off there game by physical play. The only real thing he missed was the lack of a red card to de Jong. If he did do that
      then he would have never heard the end of it especially with the Dutch defeat.

      In a World Cup that will be remembered more for blown calls than anything else, Webb was almost a bright spot. Good job.

  4. I have no beef with the fact Webb flashed a lot of yellow cards. My beef lies with the opinion that he should have flashed more red cards. Nigel de Jong’s studs into Xabi Alonso’s chest was criminal. Perhaps had be dropped the hammer on deJong, the rest of the Dutch would have realized Webb was serious when he said he wanted no more of it, and reined in their violent tactics.

    I did find it ironic that each of the Dutchmen I saw hurling abuse into Webb’s face at the end of the match was lucky to last the 90 minutes, let alone 120.

    Lots of people state that it’s a cup final, and that’s different, but I don’t buy it. In fact, nothing frustrates me more when certain values are upheld for every match but the most important one. Throughout the tournament, players were sent off for much less than what Webb let go in the final. Had he been that lenient throughout the tournament, he wouldn’t have earned the final.

    It’s a Catch-22 for Howard Webb; in his attempts to not let his decisions influence the match, his lack of decision did exactly the same.

  5. I think the Dutch team was in the wrong tournament before the start of the game. Shame on the coach if he instructed the players to adopt these tackles in order to stop the Spanish players at all costs playing their game.

  6. Then Webb should have gone red! Either take control of the match and stop the physical play and the flopping/diving (not sure why Holland gets cards for overly-physical-but-still-mostly-you-could-give-a-card-or-not-give-a-card fouls and Spain doesn’t for extremely excessive simulation) or let the game breathe as a physical match. Then, when there are brutal and unseemly fouls (like De Jong’s), Webb still gives a yellow! By not giving a red in that situation, he’s just encouraging Holland to play accordingly because he is telegraphing that each player gets one yellow but he’s really not going to throw out a player unless something major occurs or the player really infuriates him. Similarly, not giving even first yellows for simulation and for blowing late whistles in response to the howling of the various Spaniards encouraged their antics. While neither team is free of criticism for their antics, Webb deserves special criticism for his methodology. In general, I’m weary of putting Premier league officials into important international matches because they referee with a climate that creates different de facto rules and then in international matches either over or under-compensate but this was a particularly horrid response that was both too weak and too strong in all the wrong ways.
    It really makes you yearn for Pierluigi Collina.
    As to the Dutch losing because of the officiating, no I don’t believe that. Holland was the worse team but I’m not really convinced that either team actually deserved to win this match. They were both bad.

    1. Scott

      I think you mention a very valid point which I spoke of and wrote about in previous posts and discussions:

      Webb should have sent-off De Jong and I believe that would have put the Dutch under control and forced them to play less aggressive football.

      Webb lost control and the players from both teams kept complaining to him throughout the match.

      Had he sent-off De Jong, we would have seen more goals probably and a more open game + less violence.

      Major errors:

      -De Jong should have been red carded
      -Even van Bommel should have had at least 2 yellows (sent-off) by half-time.
      -Inietsa deserved yellow for his shoulder shove on van Bommel but by then the Dutch players shouldn’t have been on the pitch.

      Basically while the Dutch were violent, the Spaniards were guilty of flopping.

      1. Rami,
        much as I love Iniesta (how can you not?), he also should have had 2 yellows that he did not get (one for the retaliatory shove and one for the Jurgenesque flop dive) and he shouldn’t have received the final yellow (is the automatic yellow for a taking off your shirt after scoring a goal the most stupidest rule in football?) that he did get.
        As to the Dutch players not being on the pitch… I don’t buy that. There is a corrosive rule set that has developed and it’s the job of the officials to officiate. When FIFA insists that rules are inconsistently applied (often to the point of random chance) they are encouraging this. Yes you can blame the players a bit but the lion share of blame has to reside with the officials, the rules, and with the governing body itself.

  7. The Dutch were no more cynical than the Spanish diving team that showed up for this match. Ugly football, ugly officiating.

  8. Couldn’t agree less. Webb went into a tilt between two teams rich with experience taking advantage of contact and Webb wrote himself into the plot straight away. A true yellow involves intent. Too often and too early the intent was Webb’s alone and we were robbed of a quality final. Shame that.

    Webb is not entirely to blame. The bosses put him there and Webb was Webb, through and through.

  9. The Dutch were reckless, yes, and they were punished, but Webb also carded Spanish players, no? Was there an incident where you felt like he was lenient? And it seemed to me that both sides dove all over the place. Robben did, definitely (ironically, had he gone down on his breakaway in the fashion he had been all tournament, it may have been a different outcome) and I remember specifically a time where Van Bommel himself hacked someone, got away with it, and then comically pinwheeled through the air when Spain retaliated.

    No control over the game would have been to let all the offenses go unpunished, or to hand out reds a la Jorge Larrionda in 2006. Webb gave the Dutch plenty of warning, and they weren’t able to change their tactics. None of the cards were really that soft at all. And, as the article mentioned, the Netherlands could have had three reds, but he kept his head and did his best to stay out of the way while still reigning in the ridiculously physical play.

    He did miss what should have been a corner, yes. But that’s not what caused the Netherlands to give up the goal. They hurt themselves by refusing to ditch the dangerous play, and eventually getting punished.

    That was an impossible game to ref, and Webb actually did everything he could. Imagine if the ref from Mali had been here. Good God, what a nightmare.

  10. early in the game a dutch player kicked a spanish player in the chest, it was around the 28th minute. the game should have been decided there but howard (the duck) said to himself either it’s to early to decide the game now (which is irrelevant, a red card is a red card anytime) or it was unintentional by the dutch player. (thats like saying handball in the box that is unintentional is not a handball.) i seen howard webb have better days.

  11. Lets be honest!,if Howard Webb had followed the letter of the law both sides would have ended up 6 a side. Both sets of players were disgraceful,but this is how footballs heading. Every tackle is not a foul,& every foul is not a booking,but when u look at the way basically every player now rolls around on the ground likes hes been shot its an indictment on the modern game. How Robben has the balls to have a pop at the ref is beyound me,hes been one of the worst offender for years.
    Think about it,whatever team u follow isnt there a player who makes you cringe with embarassment,i know my team has.. ……… maybe its just me

    1. nick…I agree with your sentiments totally. The gamesmanship in football is affecting its credibility. There were several instances over the course of the World Cup where players were tackled, did the mandatory 2-3 barrel rolls in conjunction with a scream and clutch at the ankle. Close up cameras would then show the player peering to see if the free kick had been given. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

  12. There’s one aspect of modern officiating that I don’t understand (and that penalizes offensive teams that don’t foul as much). At the beginning of a game, players on the defensive team tend to rough up the opposing players. They don’t receive yellow cards until later in the game. At that point, any fouls (from either team) are punished with a yellow card. Yesterday, there were violent fouls from the first minute, but Webb didn’t show any yellow cards until later in the first half. When Spain did their first foul (I think it was Puyol) he got a yellow card. Obviously, Van Bommel and Jung should have received red cards because of their violent challenges to Iniesta and Xabi Alonso. If the refs would start showing cards from the first violent play, players would not take their chances.

  13. This was a damn hard game to ref, I don’t either side helped, both teams especially the dutch did everything they could within the law and outside of it. If Howard Webb would have started flashing the red cards early we would all be sat here saying he has spoiled the final, the fact that he didn’t a lot of people are still saying he spoiled it.
    Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, the players have to take the blame for the way this game went, they are the ones who are committing foul after foul.
    I thought Webb did a good job under the circumstances, I certainly dodn’t think anyone else could have done any better, maybe they just send 3 or 4 people off and spoil the final that way.

    1. I agree that he was damned either way but aren’t we going to blame the ref no matter what? Whether we are going to blame him seems kind of irrelevant to whether he did what he should have done.

  14. I am a Dutch fan. Have been supporting them for the last 20 years now, a die hard one at that, and I have mixed feelings about the match yesterday. Arjen Robben missed two glorious, if not the most easiest opportunity to put Holland in the driving seat to win the match, he didn’t take it. You have to take your chances, or else this is what happens, an utter disappointment. I don’t blame Howard Webb, one bit, even though I thought some of the calls were fishy. He was doing his best to control the game. I thought 3 times was the charm. How unlucky are we?
    I am 30 years of age now. Started watching World Cup since 1990, but have read all about the Dutch since Cryuff and Niskeens started dominating in the 70s. I wish, as a ardent Oranje, to see my team lift at least one World Cup in my lifetime.
    Disappointed, extremely, extremely :(

  15. I have no problems with refs who make mistakes but do have problems with refs who make up their own rules as they go along! That is exactly what Webb did.

  16. Webb is consistently one of my favorite referees in the EPL, however, he let me down in this game. He did the opposite of what he usually does. Generally, Webb is the referee that, unless it’s a blatant foul, lets the player know he needs to get up and get on with it.

    I feel he brought the cards out way too early and was a sucker for the diving Spanish.

    1. As you are probably aware, EPL has much higher tolerance for physical play than in the rest of the world. Not saying for the better or worse, just stating the fact.
      The card count would probably be 1/2 to 2/3 of what it was if it were an EPL game yesterday… and no red for Heitinga.

  17. fouling begets diving. not the other way around. if orange didn’t foul. there would have been no “dives”. Players usually “dive” when they feel they need to protect themselves because the ref is not doing his job and the other team is overly aggressive. tell the dutch to play clean and you would not have seen dives. the fact that the spaniards were getting frustrated by the constant fouling was seen when iniesta elbowed someone in the chest after getting fouled.

        1. yes. Robben, Villa, Iniesta, et cetera. All fantastic players that are playing in rule applications that encourage what we as fans rue as bad play.

          1. I must give Robben credit for once because he didnt dive on the Puyol foul! That would have changed the match with a second yellow for Puyol and the foul.

            Otherwise, both teams flopped but Robben is usually the worst offender when it comes to flopping.

            It was quite simple: red card De Jong and then the game would have settled down. Not sending him off meant for the Dutch that they can get away with more rough play.

          2. Well I am not even inherently opposed to rough football or pro even that pro goal. What I am most stridently opposed to is matches being whistled every 60 seconds. As I said before, if you aren’t going to throw anyone out then let it breathe as a rough match.

  18. usually webb lets it go. that should tell you the severity of brutality that oranje was conjuring on the field. completely ridiculous. I would not mind seeing oranje getting censured for one whole year after that game.

  19. Nigel de Jong should have gotten the red card… that is 2 now in my eyes – in May he broke Stuart Holden’s leg too (and didn’t even get a yellow for that)
    I lost respect for the dutch team watching that game, you can employ different tactics to get spain out of thier game. Boo Nederlands, Boo de Jong.

  20. Jesse,

    I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis. I find it hard to believe the negative comments directed at Webb – who was given a difficult task to not interfere with the playing of the game and yet to enforce the laws of the game. While we may be disappointed with the final, 9 v 9 would definitely not have been the final we had hoped to see.

    I think the larger question that has yet to be explored by pundits is whether the laws of the game adequately address the manner in which the modern game is played. I think most would agree that delaying the restart of play and a studs-up challenge (or a kung-fu kick a la de Jong) are not equal in terms of their seriousness, but they are given the same weight accord to the laws of the game. These events are given disproportional weight when they begin to add up. As it stands, two innocuous yellow cards – a late challenge and a phantom hand ball (think of Mueller or Findley) – are treated the same as a deliberate handball in front of goal (think Suarez). As long as both serious and not-so-serious infractions lead to players being sent off, minor events can have exorbitant effects on the game.

    I’m not advocating that FIFA alter the laws of the game, but as long as the laws are in place as is – as long as minor events can result in players being sent of – refs will always influence the game, especially a physical one as we saw in the final, whether it is their intention or not.

  21. Isn’t it the officials job to get control of a game? In my opinion Howard Webb never did that. It is amazing how many people are willing to give Webb praise for his World Cup. He was shaky in Spain/Switzerland, missed a clear as day penalty in Brazil/Chile and never got control of the final which deteriorated in to a hack fest. He is as overrated as the English National Team.

  22. I am certainly no fan of Howard Webb,Spain or The Netherlands, but the Dutch (who are more arrogant than the Germans) came out with the nasty approach to harrass the Spanish with constant niggly fouls and eventually chucking in a few nasty ones. I also believe they convinced themselves an English referee would be someone, who due to the physical nature of the EPL, would let a lot go. Well he did, the king fu kick attempt at acupuncture was a nasty maiming type attack that deserved a red card. But he knew that putting Holland one man down so early, and with a growing collection of yellows, the match would effectively have collapsed into a no contest, with Holland turning into a bunch of Bruce Lee disciples mouthing such nonsense as “be careful he is a member of the black bear club” while somersaulting sixty yards by a single bound to nut Casillas in the Spanish goal.

    Let’s not forget Robben had two great chances and fluffed them, instead of taking heart from opening the Spanish defence he chose to wince, look hurt, and signal for the dirtiest man on the pich -Van Bommel- to closely examine someone’s shin pads.

    I’m shocked at Hollands tactics. Where did it get them? Their talisman “Sneijder” instead of doing what he had done so well in the other games chose to stick the boot in (or the studs) on Busquets. Where was the spirit that defeated Brazil? The only Dutchman who didn’t commit an offence was Stekelenburg the goalie, who probably took a bit of stick from his team mates for not even attempting to deck a Spanish player. I imagine he’ll be dropped for the next game and ex Arsenal goalie – Yens Lehmann now at Stuttgart – will be drafted in, due to his chronic tendancy of thumping the opposition forwards, usually towards the end of the match with the score at 1-1.

    Let’s face it the Dutch went out there believing they were second best and played like it. By the start of the second half it was apparent to me they had decided to wait for penalty kicks and by that time this final began to resemble the worst final of all time – Germany v Argentina – when Argentina and their pint sized leader decided before the match to play for penalties. Mores the pity Uruguay didn’t make the final.
    In contrast the 74 & 78 team played the best football, were the best team and yet lost. If Robben had taken his chances I’m convinced the Netherlands name would be on the trophy today.

    No amount of blaming Howard Webb will change that Holland achieved their self fulfilling prophecy and came in second.

  23. Can we just agree that the English fans will think that he did a good job and the rest of us will think the teams the officiating and therefore the game was a bit of a scrap?

  24. Look, we Dutch fans aren’t denying that the Oranje played rough/tough and there should’ve been a red on de Jong. We’re just saying that the Spanish weren’t just “perfect little footballers” yesterday. Their constant diving and whining, (and getting away with it, thanks to Webb), put a stain on their performance.

    1. I can’t even believe the Dutch are complaining, if it would have been any other ref than an English one they would have been down to 8-9 men after 15 minutes. What chance would they have had then?
      I don’t really give a crap whether Webb is English or not, it’s not like I’m proud to have a ref in the final but come on, can the Dutch really blame him? If I were the Dutch I would be thanking him that my team wasn’t down to 9 men at half time.
      They start kicking off with the linesman claiming the goal was offside when the replay showed that he had got it spot on.
      If the Dutch are looking for someone to blame for them not winning, they need to get the mirror out.

      1. I agree Webb actually tried to pull aside players and talk to them, after some fouls that would warrant a card. If anything maybe he did that way too many times in that game. Maybe an early 2-yellow or red card would have subdued the brutal tone of the game. But one thing is sure he did all he could to let 11-v-11 on the field. The players were just not having it, and they are to blame for the game turning the way it did.

  25. If you think every yellow card was justified, you didn’t actually see the plays

    Several yellow cards were given out with no touch whatsoever

    Not sure where the hell you get that sentence from

  26. I saw tackles by Van Persie, De Jong, Van Bommel and Sneijer get given yellow were a straight red would have been better suited. I saw Robbin chase the ref half way across the field after HE had decided to stay on his feet and play the avantage. I saw the Dutch players getting in the face of the ref and the linesmen throughout the game and after the game, to be honest, they were a fu**ing disgrace and I would be suprised if FIFA didn’t take further action against them.

    1. then give someone a red and settle down the game. do it for reckless and/or intentional fouls and do it for simulations

      1. Scott

        As I mentioned in our previous exchange under a different topic: I didnt expect the Final to be entertaining.

        I knew the Dutch would be aggressive, more defensive and would rely on the counter by passing to Robben at every opportunity. They had no Plan B and even when they beat Brazil they had no Plan B. The Brazilian player F. Melo handed the win to the Dutch by deflecting free-kick into his net and then did not mark Sneijder on the corner and then got sent-off. That’s 3 lucky strikes for the Dutch and in a QF you cannot give any opposition so many chances.

        Against Slovakia, Dutch were lucky too as at 1-0 the Slovaks had 2 very good opportunities to tie but credit the Dutch GK with making 2 crucial saves. He rescued the Dutch.

        Against Uruguay, the Dutch were getting all 50-50 calls in their favor against Uruguay because of the Suarez handball which turned the Uruguayans into villains and cheats.

        As for Spain, they didn’t entertain in any of their games but to their credit they did try to play football throughout the tournament but were faced with ultra-defensive tatics.

        1. Rami,
          I know I’ve made these points before but, I think the biggest problem the Dutch had was that they never got past the Sneijder Van Persie feud. It limited their ability to be creative and forced them into a being a more one dimensional team when faced with high calibre opposition. And yes Spain did play football and quite elegantly at times but they were very lucky too. Think of when Villa should have been carded for the dive in the Paraguay match (instead of being awarded an unsuccessful PK that changed the tone of the match), or Fernando Torres conning the referee into giving Estrada a red and guaranteeing that Spain got to dodge a much harder path in Brazil and then the Netherlands in the first 2 knockouts. What about Villa’s very questionable goal against Portugal. What about Capdevila earning the red for Costa? I don’t bring these up to denigrate Spain. But simply to say every team needs luck to advance but you can’t write off the team because they had luck

  27. matt….”we were robbed of a quality final. Shame that”.

    Absolutely spot on. Whilst Spain were by no means blameless and innocent of any wrongdoing, the facts speak for themselves. The Dutch team, having adopted the approach of winning at any cost, means they are undeserving of any praise nor sympathy in my opinion. Their cynicism and rough tactics contrasted and were polar opposite to the quality play they displayed up until that point.

    Rather than the likes of Dirk Kuyt blaming Howard Webb for the Dutch defeat in South Africa, he ought to focus on the disgraceful conduct of some of his team mates. That includes Arjen Robben who failed to take his chances and made a complete fool of himself with petulant, childish behaviour. World class whingers seem appropriate.

    There is no doubt that Holland must shoulder the greater proportion of blame for what was at best a scrappy match. It could have/should have been so much better and I expect the Dutch authorities will want to put this to bed at the earliest opportunity.

  28. I love how people are saying the Dutch should have played a different way or that they ruined our experience. This is their team and they should and can play any way they want.

    The Spanish style of play is not the only style of play. You can dislike it as much as you want but both teams should be able to play whatever style of play they want within the laws of the game.

    As someone mentioned above, this game in the EPL would have had no red card and half the yellows. Webb was suckered (like a lot of people) into thinking the Spanish style of play is the “pure” or “true” style of play. Bollocks.

    What the Dutch did wasn’t that bad. If this were an Italian team, people would be talking about the wonderful, pragmatic, committed-to-the-cause, tactically-smart style of play.

  29. It appears only the British have much good to say about this referee.

    I’m Dutch and I think De Jong should have been given red for his kung fu kick. But I also think Webb was a joke and not experienced enough to lead this finals game without his ego getting in the way.

    1. I don’t hear that many British that have that many good things to say about Webb, but I do hear a lot of English that comment on how its not Webb’s fault because the players didn’t comport themselves properly. Which tends to further reinforce my idea that you don’t want English referees in major international matches.

      9 Robin VAN PERSIE (15′)
      (16′) Carles PUYOL 5
      6 Mark VAN BOMMEL (22′)
      (23′) SERGIO RAMOS 15
      8 Nigel DE JONG (28′)
      5 Giovanni VAN BRONCKHORST (54′)
      3 John HEITINGA (57′)
      (67′) Joan CAPDEVILA 11
      11 Arjen ROBBEN (84′)
      3 John HEITINGA (109′)
      2 Gregory VAN DER WIEL (111′)
      4 Joris MATHIJSEN (117′)
      (118′) Andres INIESTA 6
      (120’+1) XAVI 8

  30. The blame culture hits the World Cup! Clean through and missed a sitter Robben blames the referee! Lucky to be given the benefit of the doubt De Jong blames the referee! And so on! Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Holland regain possession from the goal kick that was a corner before losing it again to allow Spain to score? The Dutch were an utter disgrace and Webb’s only real error was to give too much thought to the occasion and not send off players who he would have dismissed in any other game.

  31. I wholeheartedly agree with this article. The fact that both sides are unhappy suggests he got it about right. The goal that decided the world cup was not affected by any controversy and Spain won correctly.

    Yes it was a mystery how the deflection off the wall wasn’t seen. You’ll have to ask Howard about that one. For the kung fu kick it was a brave but incorrect decision to give a yellow. But completely understandable. It would have been much braver to give the red when you are partially unsighted and after 28 minutes knowing your decision will effectively decide the world cup.

    In the end it was the failure to give the red cards earlier that stopped Spain from winning with greater ease.

    As for the accusations of diving from some parts. Iniesta revealed his legs on the plane back and they were in a shocking state. He is a mild humble man and even he was driven to the limit by the treatment he received. If the ref doesn’t protect you what are you going to do? I would jump out of the way!

    All said I would give Howard Webb 7/10.

    My advice to him would be this. Next time this happens after 5 minutes bring the two captains together. Explain the consequences of the tactics their teams are following and that you wont be afraid to call the fouls as you see them: yellows and reds as well. Webb tried to show some kind of authority through gestures but ultimate the Dutch (mainly) ignored him.

    The Dutch were equally (unfairly) tough in the Brazil match but Brazil self destructed rather than responded. I would have loved to see a Spain Brazil final – now that would have been beautiful.

  32. I think most of Webb’s decissions were wrong:

    1. He should have sent off Van Bommel. He could do it in the first time, or later, but it’s a big shame that he ended the match in the pitch. He made at least 3 tackles that deserved a yellow -if not a red, one of them over INiesta- card. Then, in the second half, he deliberately steps on Iniesta’s ankle, with no punishment. Then Iniesta pushes him and gets no card either. (2)
    3. He should have sent off Nigel De Jong -and, if he wasn’t going to, if he was only going to book him as he did, he should have let the game continue and book later, as Spain had a good chance to score then. The question is: if De Jong’s step on Alonso’s chest doesn’t deserve a red card… What does?? He was just 2 metres from them…!!!
    4. He used different rules. He books Sergio Ramos but doesn’t book Sneijder for a much stronger tackle after De Jong’s. Why one of them is booked while the other is advised???
    5. He didn’t send off Puyol after pulling Robben. He gave advantage and let RObben continue, but as he tried to stop a goal chance, he should have been booked for a second time and sent off..
    6. He didn’t book Iniesta (should have been the second) after diving clearly in the extra time. Instead, he booked Netherland’s player…(7)
    8. He didn’t give a corner kick after a shot clearly touched both on Fabregas and Casillas. It was so clear!!!! After that goal kick, Spain scored…
    9. He didn’t send off Robben for throwing the ball, but booked Xavi for doing it just some minutes after….!!! Different way of measuring AGAIN!!!

    Those are eight serious mistakes that cannot be acceptable in a World Cup FInal.

    It has been said that the Teams didn’t help – the Netherlands who played to hit the Spaniards, to kick and beat the others and get continuously complaining with the Ref’s decissions as they did against Brazil, and some SPaniards -mainly INiesta, continuously diving- but Webb’s performance didn’t either help. Mr Webb is the kind of referee that is more worried about what FIFA, UEFA or the FA may say about him than to decide about what he’s watching.

    He used different ways of measuring Spain’s and Netherland’s fouls, to avoid leaving the oranjes with nine or eight players. He didn’t achieve to control the match, and let the Netherlanders play very hard.
    He had also technical mistakes like not leaving advantage, or not showing yellow cards after advantage.
    He didn’t take the correct decissions in bright and clear moments, like the corner kick at the end, or a foul on Fabregas just next to Holland’s penalty area.
    He was deceived by Iniestas divings, he let the oranjes complain and shout at him once and again, not helping to calm the match down….

    Definitely, one of the worst performances during the whole World Cup: Many and serious mistakes. Not acceptable in this kind of game.

  33. Right now, all are blaming the Dutch. It looks more like a witch hunt, started by some media. It looks more like the media are not independent anymore. Is Fifa now also controlling the media?

    All media are forgetting the fouls of the Spanish. Let’s be honest, should Iniesta not been given red for kicking Van Bommel when the ball was already out of sight? Should Puyol not be sent off for attacking Robben, when he broke through? Or Van Persie being tackled when he passed the last defender? And did anybody get a yellow card for asking cards? Many Spanish would get one.

    The list for both Dutch and Spanish is of course much longer, but is nobody thinking that it’s strange only the Dutch are blamed? What happened to England where football is being played a little tougher than elsewhere? Did they become softies?

  34. I am not a fan of the Spanish and Dutch team. As a matter of fact, I am a neutral person who enjoys watching football in all aspects. Please note that there are 17Llaws of the Game BUT there is another unwritten law which is COMMENCE SENSE and that’s what Howard Webb did during the world cup final.

  35. Dear sir,
    surely the pride of having an englishman as referee in the biggest soccer /football world event is clouding your judgement of Mr Webb’s performance in the recent World Cup final. I’m sure your arguments would be very different had he been Italian or Uruguayan for example.

    While I agree with the description of the facts in your article of July 12th, please allow me to disagree with your comments justifying Mr Webb’s decisions.

    Mr Webb made a dramatic ACTIVE mistake: He was not neutral. His early calls favored those willing to prevent to play (the dutch) …(which he is lucky not have had any impact on the final result, but certainly prevented 800 million people to enjoy a beautifull game), making of him by far the WORST referee in the whole World Cup (yes, much worse that the uruguayan NOT seeing Lampard’s ball across the line, or the italian linesman not seing Tevez’ off-side).

    Unlike those listed above, Mr Webb DID see many of the tackles in the game and ACTIVELY decided to use a different gage for both teams. By trying to keep a 11 v 11 game for as long as possible, Mr Webb gave the Dutch team a purpose, and a hope to execute during 120 minutes a game plan as far as one could imagine from FIFA’s self proclaimed “FAIR PLAY”.

    Mr Van Persie should have been shown a yellow card on the second minute of the game (if not a red already), and surely should have been sent off by the 10th minute. Same is to be said about Mr van Bommel. Instead Mr Webb decided to judge differently Dutch agressions and Spanish tackles giving all spanish deffenders yellow cards following their respective first fouls.

    No doubt he SAW De Jong’s karate move, which even the dutch player has recognized to merit a red… he ruled it a fould and a yellow…following which rule? surely one he is expecting to contribute to FIFA’s 2011 rules of trhe game book.. (by the way a good referee would allowed the play to continue and afterwards caution De Jong…)

    Why did Mr Webb decide to make a different reading of the rules of the game depending on the color of the offender’s shirt during the first 30 minutes of the game? Why did he insist in this UNFAIR way of calling the game which certainly favored the Dutch?

    Was it the pressure after eacdh call by the dutch players, or that of the crowd 80% dutch 20% spanish? No doubt what happened in the last 90 minutes, was certainly influenced by Mr Webb’s ACTIVE WRONG DECISSIONS…three red cards in the first 30 minutes would have surely changed the balance between those two teams, but three clear red cards that Mr Webb did not show to dutch players i what 800 million viewers saw.
    How can I teach my 10 year old son the difference between a fair tackle, a hard foul, and an agression since all three offenses were judged as yellow cards by Mr Webb?

    While I ignore if Mr Webb’s decisions were driven by naifness (hoping all tackles in the game were the fair challenges he is used in the Premier League), by the expectation of growing his own career within FIFA, by the fear of being acused by the Dutch media of favoring the spanish, by revange against Spain’s press after the critics he received following their early game against Switzerland, or by pure incompetence… none of those qualifies as a good performance…

    One thing was obvious on Sunday’s game… While Spain won… certainly Football DIDN’T… and this was Mr Webbs fault. He should have stopped the early agressions by the Dutch players, and his ACTIVE decisions alowed them to kill the best event of the next 4 years.

  36. I wonder how many of the contributors above are active referees?
    It is so easy to watch an incident from several different camera angles, in slow motion and reflect for a few minutes before passing judgment.
    A referee has one angle and a split second to make a decision.
    No excuse for missing the corner but Spain did not score from the goal kick! Holland regained possession and lost it again before the goal!
    Webb was behind Puyol and Robben and may not have seen Puyol’s attempt to hold Robben especially as Robben’s run was not really checked.
    Who really knows whether De Jong was or wasn’t genuinely going for a high bouncing ball with his foot recklessly high (yellow) as opposed to deliberately intending to kick Alonso (red)?
    The referee gets one take from one angle at the high velocity pace of modern day football!
    Ask yourself why in the UK there is not a single ex professional footballer taking up refereeing at the end of his playing career!!
    I think the World Cup Final answers the question!

  37. I quite agree with you completely Regowen. It appears that you are an active referee. From my last contribution of the 14th July, you should have noticed that I am conversant with Laws of the Game. As a matter of fact I am an ex International Referee . Good luck in your refereeing career. We have to appreciate that our job is never 100% appreciated by the players, spectators and especially the arm-chair critics.

  38. I am an active referee and I reafirm myself on what I said. In comparison with other Elite referees, Webb had a very poor performance. I agree with Chuck in almost everything…

  39. hjk. Let me give you a word of advice. If you want to be a good referee don’t criticise other referees . If you had a bad opinion on the handling of the game, you should have kept it to yourself and don’t just fire it on the internet because at one time or another we were in the same position as Howard Webb and we didn’t like the after game comments, unless you were never criticised !!!!!

  40. Being an Elite Referee means that you will be criticised, as you become an example for all other referees in the world. Moreover, when you get the World Cups’ Final, you are THE EXAMPLE for everybody.

    So that, as they are an example for me, I feel free to criticise and comment their performances, to learn and not to make the same mistakes…

    Thanks to Mr Webb, it will be more difficult to show a red card for a serious foul onwards…

  41. You dont’t have to be an Elite Referee in order to be criticised. All referees on the planet earth at some time or another have been criticised for their performance. Whilst, I expect criticism from players, coaches, club officials, spectators and the media, I never expected criticism from an active referee. You should have followed Mr. Blatter, FIFA President EXAMPLE not to comment on the performance of the referee. This can be done during FIFA Referees Committee and not in public as you did.
    If you want to learn and not to make the same mistakes, this can be done during your referee’s instructional meetings and discuss the referee performance between referees. By the way, is this the way the active referees in your country do in order to learn and not to make the same mistakes, you just criticise the performance of your colleague referee and send your comments on the internet for everybody too see. I HOPE NOT !!!! With your feel free criticism and comments you are not setting an example to other refrees in your country and abroad.

  42. Well said, George! Its an unwritten rule that referees support each other in my opinion. Constructive explanations as to why certain “mistakes” may have been made are acceptable but not direct criticism – there is enough of that, often wrong, from every other quarter of the game. And for HJK to say that Howard Webb has just made it harder for him to show a red card in future is quite ludicrous!!

  43. I watched the whole world cup game & I would give Howard Webb a 6/10 for his performance I thought he had a satisfactory game. I am not Spanish or Dutch. Webb got most of the decisions right. Yes De jong should have been given a red card for his Kung Fu challenge on Alonso, however all the other cards were warranted. Spain won fairly they were the better team & they didn’t get handed a goal like Italy did against Australia in Germany, when Grosso PURPOSELY ran into Lucas Neill & PURPOSELY fell over to win a dubious penalty & hand Italy the match. I sympathise with the Dutch becuase obviously they wanted to win the world cup however Spain outplayed them & Howard Webb is a MUCH better referee than that idiot Luis Medina the Spanish referee that referreed the AUS ITA game in Germany. Howard Webb got most of the decisions correct. However I thought the Japanese referee should have refereed the world cup final in 2010. To me the Japanese referee was the best referee in the 2010 world cup he got all the decisions correct.

  44. Howard Webb did the hardest job in the world that day and he did it better than anyone else could have. With billions watching he kept the game even when it might have been severely diminished if he had sent someone off. They were borderline decisions and he came down on the side of the spectacle.
    Even if the Dutch had won there were also instances where Spaniards might have been dismissed. Brilliant work.

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