The Netherlands and Spain, which combined for a record number of yellow cards in last night’s World Cup final, didn’t help soccer’s spirit of “fair play,” FIFA President Sepp Blatter said.
Spain won 1-0 to claim its first world title in a match that will be remembered for foul play and the 14 yellow cards brandished by English referee Howard Webb.
“The final was not exactly what I expected in terms of fair play,” Blatter, head of soccer’s governing body, told reporters in Johannesburg today.
Dutch players and their coach Bert van Marwijk blamed the Netherlands’ third World Cup final defeat on Webb and his two assistants. Nine cautions went to the Dutch, including two for John Heitinga who was sent off as a result.
“It’s not up to me judge the performances of the officials, I can only say it was a very hard task that the referee trio had on the field of play,” Blatter said. “It was not easy, really not easy, and they were really not helped in this task.”
He refused to give his views on the tactics adopted by the Netherlands.
“Even though I have seen all the irregularities as a spectator, I cannot answer this question as president of FIFA,” he said. “I could answer it as a fan of football but I am here as president.”
Protesting Dutch players surrounded Webb at the final whistle. Heitinga, who had been banished to the changing room following his expulsion, had to be restrained by his team’s coaching staff from getting to the official, who at 38 was the youngest to referee a final for 72 years.
“Well, I don’t think the referee controlled the match,” Van Marwijk said.
After the game, Netherlands winger Arjen Robben and midfielder Nigel de Jong questioned calls made by Webb, particularly his decision to wave play on when Robben appeared to have been pulled back in front of the Spanish goal.
Spain got the winning goal four minutes before the end of extra time. It came moments after the Netherlands was denied a corner following a free kick that deflected off their opponents’ wall, prompting Dutch players to confront the linesman.
‘Learn to Lose’
“If you have a World Cup final you need a World Cup referee,” Robben said. The Netherlands is now the only nation to have played in three World Cup finals and lost them all. It was also defeated in 1974 and 1978.
“You have to learn to win and you have to learn to lose, and should not forget the basis, which is discipline and respect,” said Blatter, attending a media briefing to mark the end of Africa’s first World Cup.
The previous record for yellow cards in a final was six in Argentina’s 3-2 defeat of West Germany in the 1986 final in Mexico City.