In what will have been the proudest moment of their careers, Howard Webb and his two linesmen Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey were booed by Dutch supporters when they went up to receive their World Cup final medals on Sunday.
With the benefit of watching all 120 minutes of the final for the second time yesterday, one thing is clear: Webb had a very good game. In a match of 47 fouls, countless tricky decisions and two very argumentative sets of players, his percentage of mistakes was low. Graham Poll was right to give Webb "nine out of 10" yesterday, and Poll does not give praise lightly.
Detailed analysis of Webb's major decisions shows he did not get every one right. No referee ever does. Yet it is testament to his performance that he gave out 14 yellow cards and one red, and not one of them was unjustified.
Yes, Nigel De Jong's foul on Xabi Alonso was a red card. Yes, Mark van Bommel should have received a second yellow for a stamp on Andres Iniesta in the 78th minute. No, it was not a goal-kick when Wesley Sneijder's free-kick clipped Cesc Fabregas in the Spain wall on 115 minutes. But look at what Webb got right.
Sneijder said after the match "the goal was offside". Wrong. Iniesta was "not involved in active play" when, in an offside position, Fernando Torres' initial pass to him was cut out by Rafael van der Vaart. When, seconds later, Iniesta received the ball from Cesc Fabregas and scored he was a good few yards onside.
Sneijder also said that Iniesta kicked Van Bommel "when the ball was not there". He added: "I think if the referee saw it, it was a red card." Replays show that, at most, Iniesta's retaliatory barge on Van Bommel was a booking. What Sneijder did not mention was that, seconds before, Van Bommel had stamped on Iniesta and should have picked up a second yellow.
The problem for Webb is that the aftermath of big games is dominated by the views of the very famous and very biased players who participate in them. No one stands up for the ref.
Arjen Robben's claim that he was fouled by Carles Puyol on 83 minutes is not borne out by replays.
There were some exceptional split-second decisions by Webb and assistant Cann, who has called every big offside decision correctly this World Cup. Xavi Hernandez's appeal for a penalty at the start of extra time looked compelling in real time. It took me four HD slow-mo replays to recognise he had actually kicked Johnny Heitinga's foot and then his own standing leg.Reuse content