The 2010 FIFA World Cup Final was not without its controversies, as you would expect.

The first 15 minutes must have seemed like an eternity for referee Howard Webb as both teams sized each other up, often illegally and with no little aggression.

His game plan was clearly to avoid booking a player too early, even if the offence might have suggested otherwise. By the time the match had gone 30 minutes he had five cautions and the signs were that players were not going to get the warning.

In the entire match there were 47 fouls committed and a total of 14 yellow cards issued, two of them to John Heittinga of Netherlands who was sent off during extra time.

What a contrast with the Spain v Germany semi final when there were 16 fouls in 90 minutes and no yellow or red cards. In the Netherlands v Uruguay semi final there were 31 fouls and 5 yellow cards. 

The pressure of the occasion obviously had an effect on the players’ attitude but possibly the main reason for the high crime count was the playing styles of the teams and how they matched up to each other.  

Spain love to keep possession but when they lose possession they challenge aggressively to regain it with a strong pressing game.

They were the artists with the skill, but like all artists they can be temperamental, and they were guilty of many heavy challenges.

Netherlands, on the other hand were the artisans, a more physical side who were prepared to ‘win dirty.’ When the opponents have so much possession of the ball, challenges to regain possession are regular and as it turned out regularly over-physical.

The better team won and it was a good result for football.

 The Dutch no longer play the Total Football of yesteryear and the artists of Spain are now deservedly crowned the best team in the worldF

Howard Webb was in a very difficult situation and will no doubt look back on the match with mixed emotions. He might have sent off Dutch defender Nigel De Jong in 28 minutes for a high footed challenge on Xabi Alonso but in the end chose to issue only a yellow card.

He was in a no-win situation. If he sends off three players he is accused of wasting the Final, if he doesn’t he is still accused of wasting the Final.

He will never have a more difficult match to referee in terms of both the occasion and the attitude of the players – but forever he is a FIFA World Cup Final Referee.

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