Whining Dutch blame ref Webb for World Cup loss

Jul 13, 2010
Gavin Mortimer

After the most violent World Cup final in history the culprits blame the officials for their defeat

That Dutch lad who fixed the dyke is needed once more, only this time he can shove his finger in the collective mouth of his country's football team to stem their whining. Ever since referee Howard Webb blew the final whistle in Sunday's brutal World Cup final, a match won by the Spanish thanks to Andres Iniesta's extra-time goal, Holland have had it in for the English official.

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk said in the immediate aftermath of the defeat: "I don't think the referee controlled the match well", adding that Webb may have shown the Spanish preferential treatment to atone for an error he made during their loss to Switzerland in an earlier group match. While van Marwijk conceded that some of the fouls had been "terrible", he still saw no reason why Webb had shown his players nine yellow cards and one red, not to mention the five brandished in the faces of Spain's players.

Van Marwijk's bewildering refusal to face up to reality has encouraged his players to utter equally absurd comments, none more so than Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt. "We are angry that we lost because we came so close," fumed Kuyt. "I know you cannot blame others, but the referee favoured Spain. We had many more yellow cards than we deserved. That ultimately cost us the cup."

Meanwhile Wesley Sneijder's wrath was directed not so much at the number of cards dished out by Webb but by his failure to award Holland a corner at a crucial juncture in the match. With five minutes remaining of extra-time, Sneijder attempted to break the deadlock with a free-kick just outside the Spanish penalty box. The shot glanced off the defensive wall and went behind for what should have been a corner, but Webb gave a goal-kick and sixty seconds later Iniesta had the ball in the Dutch net. "He has robbed us,' said Sneijder. "This really is a disgrace to football. It really shouldn't have happened. It is a scandal it has to end this way."

And Robin Van Persie, one of the first players to be booked for taking out Sergio Busquets, said of Webb: "What was this man doing? He made three big errors in extra time of a World Cup final. Believe me, this really hurts."

The one Dutch player who was measured in his criticism of Webb was Nigel De Jong, who many feel should have been dismissed in the first-half for a chest-high tackle on Xabi Alonso. De Jong himself admits he would have had no complaints if he'd seen red. "Yes, I was concerned it might be worse than a yellow," he said. "I was really focused on the ball and I caught him on his chest. It was a bit curious but he gave the yellow card so for me it was a little bit of luck."

As for the decisions that went against his side in extra-time, De Jong puts them down to the rub of the green. "It is easy to blame the referee," said De Jong. "There were some strange decisions and everyone, in the stadium and on TV, could see we should have had a clear corner when he gave a goal-kick to Spain. On the next attack they score... what can you do about that? He will realise what he did when he sees the replay, but I am not saying the biggest fault was with the referee."

Yet for all the vitriol being directed his way, Webb received the backing of Fifa and former referees for the way he officiated the most violent ever World Cup Final. Fifa president Sepp Blatter, with characteristic blandness, said of the game: "The final was not exactly what I expected in terms of fair play. It's not up to me judge the performances of the officials, I can only say it was a very hard task that the referee trio had on the field of play. It was not easy, really not easy and they were really not helped in this task [by the two teams]."

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallacher thought Webb should be satisfied with his handling of the game, telling Sky Sports: "If you take the De Jong tackle out - I thought that was a red card - other than that I don't think he's got much to really look back in anger at himself, because he's gone out, he's been tested to the absolute limit."

And another ex-whistler, Jeff Winter, summed up the feelings of the neutral football fan by telling Holland a few home truths: "To listen to Dutch players after the game blaming the referee for the defeat after they conducted themselves abysmally for the whole two hours is unbelievable," Winter said. "I hope when they look back at what they've said they are totally and utterly embarrassed."

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