2010 World Cup Final: Holland Gave Howard Webb the Toughest Job on Earth

Jack DoyleCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11:  Referee Howard Webb officiates during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Move over Barack Obama, someone else has the world's toughest job: Howard Webb.

The task?

Refereeing the World Cup final.

Not only does officiating the climax of the world's largest sporting event come every four years, but, like the presidency, it comes under the microscope of intense scrutiny by millions of others.

Obviously, everyone isn't going to be happy, but the immense amount of hatred directed towards Webb from fans around the world (the Netherlands specifically) is at least somewhat unwarranted.


Because the Netherlands gave him a hell of a job on Sunday in their contest against World Cup champion Spain.

For the sake of transparency, I'll admit I was cheering for Spain, but all I really wanted was a final that lived up to the Netherlands-Spain billing.

It didn't happen.

And the opportunity of a lifetime for Webb soon transformed from a dream to a nightmare for the 38-year-old referee.

Not even half an hour into the match, the English officiator had already handed out five yellow cards—three to the Netherlands and two to Spain. Overall, a record 14 yellow cards were shown, along with one red card to Holland's John Heitinga in the 109th minute.

Many people see that 14 yellows were shown and are quick to dismiss Webb as a card-happy fool who had his head up his rear end for most of the match. But the fact of the matter is that if he hadn't given them out, the Netherlands would have continued hacking away at Spanish legs until there were none underneath them.

Even with the massive amount of cards being thrown out, Webb still wasn't able to fully prevent Holland from making reckless challenges or flying through the air with a kung-fu kick.

In fact, the Netherlands deserved to have one or two men sent off before extra time, but that surely would have drawn even more criticism from the media and fans.

But to be fair, Spain wasn't without its fair share of hard fouls or dives.

Spanish hero Andres Iniesta's retaliation foul against Martin Van Bommel was childish, and so was his dive that earned Gregory Van Der Wiel a yellow. Then there was Carles Puyol, one of Spain's key defenders, who grabbed Arjen Robben's waist as he sped towards goal with only Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas between him and the net.

It was a complete shocker that Robben didn't instantly fall to the ground like he usually does, but that's another story.

But the biggest head-scratcher is one that fans from both sides can agree on: the mysterious goal kick. A Holland free kick that deflected off the Spanish wall and the hands of Casillas somehow resulted in a Spain goal kick.

How could Webb not see it? Hell, how could his assistant not see it?

The rest, as they say, is history.

Casillas knocked it up field, the Netherlands failed to clear a Fernando Torres cross, and Cesc Fabregas found Iniesta, who knocked it in with poise and precision.

Overall, Webb handled the rough play of the Dutch fairly well and doesn't deserve the insane amount of criticism he's received thus far. He had a far from perfect match, but there wasn't a Frank Lampard-like disallowed goal or Carlos Tevez-ish offside goal allowed either.

Next on his list?

That oil spill business. Hey, wait a second...