English referee Howard Webb insists he put everything into his World Cup final performance and came away with a feeling of satisfaction.
Webb has come in for criticism after he showed 14 yellow cards and sent off Holland’s Everton defender John Heitinga during Spain’s fractious 1-0 win in Johannesburg on Sunday.
But he has no regrets over his handling of the “extremely challenging” match.
After arriving home from South Africa yesterday with his assistants Darren Cann and Michael Mullarkey, Webb said: “Whatever the match, you always hope that the officials won’t need to be heavily involved. However, we had to raise our profile in order to keep control.
“We don’t feel that we had much choice except to manage the game in the way we did. We came away feeling satisfied that we’d done a tough job in difficult circumstances to the best of our abilities.
“It was an extremely challenging match to handle, but it would have been so for any referee. It is one of the toughest games we will ever be involved in and we feel that we worked hard to keep the focus on the football as much as possible.”
Bert van Marwijk’s Holland side committed a series of rash challenges during the final and were fortunate not to lose midfielder Nigel de Jong to a straight red card in the first half for a high challenge on Xabi Alonso.
Despite Webb’s leniency on that occasion, his performance nevertheless incensed the Dutch and he was confronted by several players after the final whistle.
The Football Association and Premier League have backed the 39-year-old Rotherham official, who is relishing a short break from the game.
“We leave the tournament pleased with how we performed, honoured to be given the final and privileged to have met so many wonderful people in South Africa,” he said.
“We’re all looking forward to a little bit of a rest and then coming back fresh for the new Barclays Premier League season.”
Mike Riley, general manager of Professional Game Match Officials, the body which provides referees for the Premier League, has praised Webb and slammed the Dutch and Spanish players for showing “little respect for the laws of the game”.
“The final was without doubt one of the most difficult games Howard will have ever refereed,” Riley said in a statement released through the Premier League.
“On far too many occasions during the match the players showed little respect for the laws of the game and showed scant regard for the spirit of the game.
“In spite of these challenges Howard and his team performed superbly, showing great resolve and courage in dealing with the many incidents in the game.”
Riley added: “We should be thankful that such a difficult encounter was controlled by officials whose composure in the face of great challenges safeguarded the integrity of FIFA’s showpiece fixture.”