The Netherlands blamed English referee Howard Webb and missed chances for their defeat in yesterday’s soccer World Cup final in South Africa.
Winger Arjen Robben and midfielder Nigel de Jong questioned calls made by Webb, and particularly his decision to wave play on when Robben appeared to have been pulled back in front of the Spanish goal. Spain’s winner, four minutes before the end of extra time, came moments after the Netherlands was denied a corner following a free kick that bounced off their opponents’ wall, prompting Dutch players to confront the linesman.
“If you have a World Cup final you need a World Cup referee,” said Robben. The Netherlands are now the only nation to have played in three World Cup finals and lost them all.
Robben’s criticism of the referee was echoed by midfielder Wesley Sneijder and Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk in a game that was littered with fouls, including a 13-minute spell during the first half when five players were booked. Netherlands defender John Heitinga was red carded in extra time and in total a record 14 yellow cards were issued, including the two that led to the dismissal.
“It’s the final and everybody wants to win the game,” said De Jong. “You have to go to the limits sometimes, sometimes you have to put in a hard tackle.”
Even so, the squandered chances prompted Van Marwijk to say that the “best team won.”
Bayern Munich winger Robben, who missed the two clearest chances created by either team during regulation time, took responsibility for the first miss, when he failed to find the back of the net with only goalkeeper Iker Casillas to beat.
“The first one was clearly my fault,” he told reporters. “The second chance was a sending off, there was no advantage,” said Robben, referring to Webb’s decision not to award a free kick as Spain’s defenders hauled him back.
“We did this to ourselves, I guess,” Dutch coach Van Marwijk conceded after the match. “It’s very bitter in defeat and very sad.”