Webb's English team are joint favourites to referee the final

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The Independent Online

Howard Webb is one of the two favourites to referee the World Cup final on Sunday which would make him the first Englishman to take charge of the biggest game in the world since Jack Taylor in 1974.

Mexican referee Benito Archundia and Webb, 38, a former policeman from South Yorkshire, are the two officials Fifa is expected to consider when it makes the decision after tomorrow's second semi-final. It would cap a remarkable season for Webb and his two assistants, Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey, who also took charge of the Champions League final between Internazionale and Bayern Munich in May.

Yesterday Fifa, which has retained Webb and his team until the end of the tournament, chose Ravshan Irmatov from Uzbekistan, who took charge of England's second game against Algeria, for tonight's semi-final between Uruguay and the Netherlands in Cape Town. Hungary's Viktor Kassai will be in charge of tomorrow's game in Durban between Spain and Germany. Neither will now be considered for Sunday's final.

Archundia, 44, a lawyer, was given the Italy v Paraguay group game and then Brazil against Portugal. He referees in the central America region and was in charge of the Fifa Club World Cup game between Barcelona and Estudiantes of Argentina last year, a major showpiece game for the governing body.

Webb has had one of the best World Cups of any official. He navigated the bad-tempered group game between Italy and Slovakia, in which the defending world champions lost 3-2 and were eliminated. In that game, Cann correctly ruled Fabio Quagliarella's equaliser offside. Webb also did not react to the Italian striker's exaggerated reaction to a clash with the Slovakian goalkeeper Jan Mucha, which looked designed to get the latter sent off.

In the Brazil against Chile game in the second round, Webb correctly let Luis Fabiano's goal stand despite looking, on the first viewing, as if it might have been offside. Replays showed that the decision by Cann to give the goal was correct.

The Uruguayan linesman who failed to see that Frank Lampard's shot had crossed the line against Germany has said that he has moved on from the decision and that it "could have happened to anyone".

Mauricio Espinosa did not see that Lampard's shot in the 39th minute, which bounced off the bar, had crossed the German goal-line by around a foot. Had the goal been given it would have brought the score back to 2-2 in a game that finished 4-1 to Germany. In the aftermath of the defeat, England coach Fabio Capello said that the disallowed goal was the game's crucial turning point.

Espinosa and referee Jorge Larrionda were among those officials sent home after the second round. The decision is likely to have a detrimental long-term effect on the career of all three of the Uruguayan officials. Espinosa told the Spanish newspaper El Pais: "It was a very fast shot that I did not see properly, even though I was located in the right place.

"We didn't see a replay in the dressing room at half-time but you could sense what had happened. It was only when we saw the TV that we realised what happened."

He added: "I feel quite sad about it because we had prepared for such a long time for the World Cup. It could have happened to anyone, unfortunately it was us. You just have to accept it. Life goes on."

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