"Whatever the match, you always hope that the officials won't need to be heavily involved. However, we had to raise our profile in order to keep control," Webb said in a statement on the Premier League website on Tuesday.

Unsavoury haranguing

The final was marred by a series of rash Dutch challenges and unsavoury haranguing of officials.

"We don't feel that we had much choice except to manage the game in the way we did. We came away feeling satisfied that we'd done a tough job in difficult circumstances to the best of our abilities," Webb said in his statement.

Some say that De Jong was lucky to only get a yellow card for his foul on Alonso [AFP]

"It was an extremely challenging match to handle, but it would have been so for any referee.

"It is one of the toughest games we will ever be involved in and we feel that we worked hard to keep the focus on the football as much as possible."

The Dutch were lucky to avoid a sending-off in the first half when Nigel de Jong kicked Xabi Alonso in the chest and was given a yellow card.

"We tried to apply some common sense officiating given the magnitude of the occasion for both sides," Webb said.

He said that they were "advising players early on for some of their tackling, sending players away when they were surrounding the officials, and speaking to their senior colleagues to try to calm them down".

Hero's welcome

In sharp contrast to the rancour of the Holland-Spain match, fourth-place Uruguay's team received a hero's welcome home as tens of thousands of cheering flag-waving fans lined the streets of Montevideo, the South American nation's capital.

Soccer-mad Uruguayans waited for hours in cold winter temperatures to see the bus transporting the players pass by, and Jose Mujica, the president, offered a tribute in front of fans gathered in the centre of Montevideo.

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"We are moved, but mostly thankful, very thankful. These boys deserve recognition, but this has surpassed all that could be imagined," Oscar Tabarez, the Uruguay coach, told the crowd.

Uruguay's success in the tournament was one of the surprises of the World Cup, giving the small nation its best showing in four decades.

Patricia Rodriguez, 24, wrapped in a Uruguay flag and with her face painted, was undeterred by the chilly conditions.

"I cannot feel my feet because of the cold, but the only thing that matters today is showing the players we are proud of them and to say thanks," she said.