Wednesday, July 14, 2010

14 July 1971 - The Only Englishman To Reach The 2010 World Cup Final

On 14 July 1971, future 2010 World Cup Final referee Howard Webb was born in Rotherham, England. One of the sport's most respected officials, he is the first person to officiate the World Cup Final and the Champions League Final in the same year.

Currently on a five-year sabbatical from his day job as a sergeant with the South Yorkshire police, Webb began his career as a referee in 1989 for local leagues in Rotherham. In 1998, he began working for the Premier League as an assistant referee and eventually worked his way to full Premier League status in 2003. Two years later, he began officiating international matches for FIFA.

By 2010, he had earned sufficient recognition for UEFA to assign him to that year's Champions League Final, which was won by Inter Milan over Bayern Munich. Webb issued only three cautions in that match, including one to Bayern midfielder Mark van Bommel.

In the 2010 World Cup, Webb first refereed Spain's group-stage loss to Switzerland, then took charge of Italy's loss to Slovakia in Group F and Brazil's win over Chile in the Round of 16.

The Final between the Netherlands and Spain was a brutal match, with the Dutch favoring a negative and highly physical style of play to thwart the Spanish flow. In that match, Webb made World Cup Final history by issuing 14 yellow cards, obliterating the previous record of 6 given in the 1986 Final. Two of those went to the Netherlands' Johnny Heitinga, earning him an ejection in extra time. One of them went to van Bommel, making him the only player to be carded by Webb in both the Champions League and World Cup Finals.

While a number of Webb's decisions were controversial, including his issuance of a yellow card to the Oranje's Nigel de Jong for a 28th-minute karate-style kick on Spain's Xabi Alonso that probably should have been a straight red, he received overall praise for performing well in a match that would have tested the limits of any official.

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