Howard Webb ‘gutted’ to miss Nigel de Jong red card in 2010 World Cup final
Howard Webb has described how he was “gutted beyond belief” to miss the flying kick by Netherlands midfielder Nigel de Jong when he refereed the 2010 World Cup final.
De Jong had crashed a high boot into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso midway through the first half, but Webb chose to only produce a yellow card for the then-Manchester City player when he should have shown a red.
“Xabi Alonso headed the ball forward to David Villa but, as he did so, Nigel de Jong crashed into him,” Webb wrote in his new book “The Man in the Middle,” which is being serialised in The Times. “At that moment I’d been positioned just behind Alonso, about 10 yards away, so I hadn’t seen the actual point of impact or exactly how De Jong had connected.
“However, I knew that it was a late and forceful challenge, and that it warranted a caution. None of my team spoke up on the radio to suggest otherwise, so I showed a yellow card for what I’d seen unfold before me: an untidy, reckless challenge from the Dutch midfielder.
“Hand on heart, it never, ever crossed my mind that this was a red card. In that instance, on that pitch, I was utterly convinced it was a yellow; not one percent of me thought otherwise.
“I hadn’t bottled out of the big decision, I hadn’t felt intimidated by the occasion, and I’d certainly not felt under any pressure from FIFA to curb dismissals. I’d simply handed out the appropriate penalty for what I’d seen with my own eyes, from my vantage point. And that’s the truth.
“As I brandished the card, however, there was a furious reaction from the Spaniards, both on and off the field. I genuinely thought they were pissed off because of the general physicality of the Dutch team, not just this one particular offence. I also presumed they were riled because I’d chosen not to play advantage when the ball had dropped to David Villa from Alonso’s header.
“It wasn’t until half-time that I realised De Jong’s tackle might have been worthy of a red card… I felt gutted beyond belief. It looked like I’d missed a red-card offence in the World Cup final. What a f—ing nightmare. I returned to the pitch with my head pounding and my heart thumping.”
Spain eventually won the final 1-0 through an Andres Iniesta goal in the second half.