Former World Cup referee Graham Poll has leapt to the defence of under-fire Howard Webb after Sunday’s final.
The 38-year-old official dished out 14 yellow cards and one-red in a foul-strewn match in which the Netherlands adopted a cynical approach against eventual winners Spain.
But the Netherlands’ real complaint seemed to be that Webb missed a clear corner for them, just seconds before Andres Iniesta scored the winning goal.
However Poll, who officiated in the 2006 tournament, said that Webb’s performance was worthy of a “nine out of 10”.
And he argued that the former policeman had tried to allow the game to flow, adding that his only real mistake was the failure to send off Nigel de Jong for a chest-high foul on Xabi Alonso.
“We can look at one situation clearly where a player, De Jong, should have been sent off,” Poll said. “Howard clearly didn’t see that one or he would have sent him off. He worked hard to make the game fairly watchable. He chose to do it his way, which I think made it a better game. Had he chosen to step in and apply the laws strictly, which hasn’t been done the whole World Cup to be fair to Howard, we could have ended up with probably eight Dutch players on the pitch. As it’s a World Cup final I’d give his performance a nine (out of ten).”

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