JOHANNESBURG // Spain's defender Carles Puyol should have been the first player to be sent off by the referee Howard Webb, according to Arjen Robben after his Dutch side lost the World Cup final 1-0 against Spain last night. The Spanish centre-back, already booked in the first half, committed a foul on the Dutch winger 10 minutes from time when he raced past him but Robben continued and was denied by the goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
"When I got my second chance the referee should have given us a free kick and Puyol a [second] yellow card," Robben said. "He gave the advantage but there was none as I could hardly move and the goalkeeper was too close already." After beating Brazil in the quarter-final, Robben was widely criticised for his diving but in the final he stood firm instead of making clear to the referee that he had been fouled.
"As a player you always want to go on and especially 10 minutes before time in a World Cup final when you are heading towards the goal," he added. "When I missed my first chance it was simply my error - I was not patient enough and should have gone around him instead of this poor finish," he said of his 62nd minute opportunity when he broke through from a superb pass from Wesley Sneijder. The Dutch afterwards said they were less than impressed with the referee's performance during the final.
In an ill-tempered final that saw a record 13 yellow cards, eight for Holland, and one red card for Dutch defender John Heitinga, in the first half of extra time. "When you play a World Cup final you need also a world class referee and - I have to be careful what I say - this was not the case for this match," Robben added. However, the winger was lucky himself not to be dismissed after deliberately playing on after the whistle had blown for an infringement. It would have been his second yellow card but Webb simply admonished him. The Holland manager Bert van Marwijk weighed in saying: "I'm trying to analyse the match as best as possible. But I read a few things today about how angry Spain were at the refereeing in the first match against Switzerland. If you view the performance (of the referee) today, you'd almost think now that that first match had an influence on this game now."
However, the former England manager Graham Taylor pointed out Webb missed the severity of the chest-high tackle by Nigel de Jong that received only a booking in the first half. "The tackle by De Jong into the chest of Alonso, Howard Webb must have missed that because that is a red card, you don't tackle people like that," he said. Webb was criticised by the Spanish media too. The former Atletico Madrid player Juan Andujar, now a columnist for newspaper Marca added: "The referee did not meet the conditions required to run a football match. It's outrageous."
* With agencies