World Cup 2010: Howard Webb left 'drained' after toughest two hours of his life

Final was ref's sternest test yet...
Premier League referee Howard Webb has revealed that the World Cup final on Sunday night was one of the toughest experiences of his career.

The match was characterised by the intimidatory approach of the Netherlands team, with Webb awarding 14 yellow cards in total, including the two issued to Dutch defender John Heitinga, who was sent off.

Webb, 39 this week, is now resting in Pretoria before taking a holiday ahead of the beginning of the new Premier League campaign, and admitted that the experience had taken a lot out of him.

"Sunday night was the most difficult two hours of my entire career," the Yorkshireman told friends, according to The Daily Mail.

"I am physically and emotionally drained but FIFA have been very supportive - not just about the final but our performances throughout the whole tournament."

FIFA are understood to have been impressed with the display of Webb and his two assistants, Mike Mullarky and Darren Cann.

Webb has been heavily criticised in the Dutch media but received backing from former Premier League referees' chief Keith Hackett.

"It is unfair that Howard is being criticised because, overall, he had a superb game technically," Hackett told The Yorkshire Post.

"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."

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