Former referees' chief defends 'superb' Webb

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Former Premier League referees' chief Keith Hackett has labelled Howard Webb's performance in the World Cup final "superb".

The 39-year-old from Rotherham has been heavily criticised, not least by the Dutch media, after issuing 14 yellow cards during Spain's fractious 1-0 win - two of which led to the dismissal of Holland's Everton defender John Heitinga.

But he has received support from within the English game and Hackett told the Yorkshire Post: "It is unfair that Howard is being criticised because, overall, he had a superb game technically."

He added: "Sadly, there were far too many players who showed no respect for the authority of the referee and it was not a good example of how the game should be played or how players should behave.

"You expect players to respond to a referee - and cautions normally serve to calm players down. But in this game, yellow cards had little effect on some players who continued to test his authority.

"Tactically, the Dutch were trying to stop the game and upset the opposition. There were many incidents of group dissent and group fouling tactics.

"Yet, out of all the referees at the World Cup, Howard was the ideal appointment. Had a referee with lesser experience or with less man-management and communication skills been in charge of this game, we could have had a very different scenario on our hands - it could well have deteriorated into mass confrontation."

The last Englishman to referee a World Cup final echoed that support for Webb.

Jack Taylor took charge of the 1974 final between Holland and West Germany, awarding the first two penalties in a World Cup final as Germany won 2-1.

And he told the Times: "I dread to think what certain referees from certain countries would have made of it. Some would have been in real trouble because one particular team created a lot of problems. A lot of referees would have finished in total disarray."

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