The 2010 World Cup final is remembered as much for its nastiness as it is for Andres Iniesta’s extra-time winner.
Referee Howard Webb dished out 14 yellow cards during the game between Spain and the Netherlands in Johannesburg, two of which went to John Heitinga.
The Netherlands’ defender was sent off in extra-time, but Bert van Marwijk’s team would have been down to 10 men long before had Webb witnessed Nigel de Jong’s brutal, studs-up lunge at Xabi Alonso’s chest in the first half.
"Having seen it again from my armchair, I would red-card him," Webb said, per The Guardian, six years ago.
"The trouble in the actual game was that I had a poor view of that particular incident. I was looking through the back of Alonso and though I could see the foot was high, I could not be certain of the extent of the contact.
“It wasn't that I didn't want to send anyone off because it was a World Cup final, though I was mindful of the fact that the game was the pinnacle of the players' careers as well as of mine. I just wasn't prepared to take a guess 25 minutes into the game."
In a game filled with ugly incidents, Iniesta popped up in the 118th minute to provide a moment of brilliance as La Roja followed up their success at Euro 2008 by winning the World Cup.
The ferocious tackles left Webb so anxious that he thought he might have to send the Barcelona star off after he scored his goal.
Iniesta earned a booking by taking off his shirt. Considering he’d already handed out 13 yellows, Webb feared the playmaker might have been one of those already cautioned.
“There was occasions when you had to do something that you didn’t really want to do,” Webb told the Mirror. “So when a player takes their shirt off to celebrate a goal, it’s a second yellow card and you have to send him off.
“When Iniesta scored the winning goal in the World Cup final with four minutes to go he took his shirt off and I’d already cautioned 13 players and I thought there’s every chance that Iniesta’s one of those 13.
“As I looked down on the card there wasn’t a number six on the side of the Spanish team, luckily for me, so I cautioned him and didn’t have to send him off after he scored the winning goal in a World Cup final.
“So again those sort of situations are not nice for a ref even though you’ve got to follow that through.”
So De Jong escaped punishment for kung-fu kicking an opponent, while Iniesta nearly got sent off for taking his shirt off.
Football’s rules need changing.
Should players be sent off for taking their shirts off? Let us know in the comments section below!
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