World Cup profile: Arjen Robben, the Netherlands
Arjen Robben brings experience to the Netherlands but, Stephen Donovan warns, he is facing his last chance to win the World Cup…
The man who decided the 2013 Champions League final with a goal in the dying minutes to hand Bayern Munich the biggest prize in European club football, Robben will be key to the Netherlands’ chances in the World Cup as they look to put the memory of their disastrous Euro 2012 campaign behind them.
What he offers is pace and trickery in abundance, and although he can often be selfish in possession, Robben provides a quality end product more often than not, having showcased his array of capabilities at the highest level for the best part of a decade.
His career was well and truly launched when he joined Chelsea from PSV Eindhoven as a 20-year-old back in 2004, and throughout his three seasons at Stamford Bridge he experienced great success with two Premier League title wins and three domestic cup triumphs, kicking off what has turned into a trophy-laden career.
After a somewhat difficult spell at Real Madrid, where he never really established himself as a key member of the team, he was off to the Allianz Arena in 2009, and his five years in Germany could hardly have been better.
Alongside the likes of Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger, Robben has gone on to win three Bundesliga titles, before having the final say as he eventually emerged successful in the Champions League, a moment which is undoubtedly his greatest in his career to date.
His scoring record for Bayern is phenomenal for a winger, with 89 goals in his 167 appearances, which works out as slightly better than a goal every two games. He has also contributed an equally impressive 61 assists during that time, proving that he can deliver quality service when he feels like it.
This is Robben’s third World Cup, and he has made a positive impact for the Dutch in both previous tournaments in which he has appeared. He scored their opening goal of the 2006 World Cup with the winner against Serbia and Montenegro, two years after he made his international tournament debut at Euro 2004, where he helped the Netherlands to the semi-finals. There, like 2006, they lost to Portugal.
After more fine displays at Euro 2008, he was part of a fearsome four in attack at the 2010 World Cup, alongside the outstanding Wesley Sneijder, Dirk Kuyt and Robin van Persie, and he scored arguably his side’s best goal of the tournament - a trademark solo goal in the second round against Slovakia. If anything, it was reminiscent of his goal which finally saw off Manchester United in last season’s Champions League.
However, he must still be ruing his failure to convert his side’s best clear-cut chance in that tumultuous final against Spain, a failure which was crucial to what turned out to be an agonising defeat. He may not have a better chance to win the World Cup, particularly as the Dutch are much less fancied this time around, but his best form can win games single-handedly, something which he has done on numerous occasions in the past.
Keep an eye out for...
David Silva - Spain: The passing philosophy that Spain have adopted since Vicente Del Bosque took charge suits Silva down to the ground. He is capable of unlocking the most stubborn of defences, something which he has shown all too regularly in four seasons with Manchester City, where he has hardly given a poor performance.
He comes into this having helped City to the Premier League title, scoring seven goals in that successful campaign. He adds incisiveness and invention to a Spanish side that loves to keep hold of the ball and wear opponents down. Should Spain score, expect Silva to be heavily involved.
Alexis Sanchez - Chile: Despite entering the last World Cup as a youngster, Sanchez showed some real promise as Chile made it through to the knockout stages. He has since gone from strength to strength, earning a move to Spanish giants Barcelona in 2011 and playing alongside some of the world’s best players.
Sanchez will be key to his nation’s hopes of making it into the latter stages of this World Cup, as he is the only striker in the Chile squad that has great pedigree. His presence could also be an advantage against Spain in their second group match, given that they possess a number of his Barcelona teammates. The 25-year-old scored an impressive 19 goals in La Liga last season.
Mile Jedinak - Australia: In a hugely inexperienced Australian side, Jedinak’s leadership as captain will be crucial. His status as a holding midfield player may also carry some importance, as the Socceroos will be expecting to do a large amount of defending over their three group matches, which all appear to be exceptionally tough.
Jedinak has already proved that he can help produce unexpected results against all the odds, having led Crystal Palace from apparent relegation certainties to the security of mid-table in the Premier League last season. Indeed, few were able to match the 29-year-old’s consistency over the second half of the season.
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