Van Marwijk spins a Webb of self-delusion

Spain deserved to win the World Cup final, and Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk recognized this. It wasn't an exceptional football match, but the Spanish were the better side. For the Netherlands only Arjen Robben offered a potent attacking option.

Where van Marwijk is spouting absolute rubbish is in his assessment of referee Howard Webb. I'm no great fan of Webb, nor am I indiscriminately supporting a fellow Englishman, but he performed pretty well under very trying circumstances. Both teams were unsporting, but the Dutch were especially cynical and destructive, particularly in the first half, and every card Webb awarded was justified.

The funny thing is that the pro-Dutch camp claim that he was too harsh, and the pro-Spanish contingent that he was too lenient. As he cannot simultaneously have been both, I rather suspect Webb got the balance as close to correct as anyone could have.

The only decision he got palpably, unequivocally wrong was giving a goal kick when Wesley Sneijder's free kick was clearly deflected behind off Cesc Fabregas. Dutch complaints about this conveniently overlook the fact that Nigel de Jong was very lucky not to receive a straight red card for attempting to penetrate Xabi Alonso's chest with the studs of his right boot.

It is a myth that the Dutch normally play the beautiful game and that their performance in the final was an aberrant suspension of their 'artistic heritage'. They did almost exactly the same thing in the 2006 World Cup, also against Iberian opponents, when they had Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Khalid Boulahrouz sent off in a stormy 1-0 defeat to Portugal. Claiming the Netherlands play good football based on a team of 30 years ago is as logical as stating that England are World Cup champion-winning material because they did it in 1966.

Of course, we knew already that football players and managers live in a bubble of self-delusion, especially when they're losing, but their treatment of officials is disgusting. More often than not, it's also inaccurate. Complaining about perceived wrongs whilst oblivious to the reality of the situation was demonstrated beautifully by Dutch defender Joris Mathijsen after Iniesta's winning goal. Incensed that it hadn't been flagged offside, Mathijsen sprinted over to the linesman to berate him for all his worth, and received - shock horror - a booking for his troubles. A moment later, the replay of the goal was shown, and Iniesta was comfortably onside. The officials had it right, and Mathijsen was a disrespectful idiot, but then he's a professional footballer, so we couldn't expect much else.
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