Netherlands Camp Focus – Robben injury mars preparations

The Netherlands showcased their impressive form in front of goal by notching up a 6-1 win in their final World Cup warm up friendly over poor Hungary, but at what cost?

In-form winger Arjen Robben limped off of the pitch with a hamstring injury after scoring two goals for the Dutch side. The Bayern Munich player has been in sensational form this season and was tipped to star for the Oranje during the tournament in South Africa. Now Holland Coach Bert van Marwijk faces a sweat over Robben, who has been known as an injury player in the past which earned him the ‘Glass Man’ nickname. The Dutch Coach was cursing his player’s bad luck with injuries: “I would rather lose this match and have Arjen stay fit. He felt a sharp pain. That does not bode well. But I do not lose hope. My first thought was this can’t be true, the end the final warm-up match, everyone is fit and then this.” The Oranje Coach said he will take his time before making any decisions about replacing the player: “We now have to wait. I can replace Robben until 24 hours before our opening match but as long as there is hope he recovers in time he will stay in the squad.”

The former Chelsea winger’s absence would surely be a major blow to the Netherlands as many have tipped them to be a potential dark horse for the World Cup, especially as they have a favourable group (containing Cameroon, Denmark and own-goal specialists Japan). Should they win their group, as expected, they are unlikely to face any real threat in the final sixteen as many would bank on Italy winning Group F, which would leave the Netherlands up against New Zealand, Paraguay or Slovakia in the second round.

Robben is just one of the latest big name players to pick up an injury which could keep him out of contention this summer. Jose Bosingwa, Michael Ballack, Jon Obi Mikel,, Michael Essien and Rio Ferdinand will all miss out in the tournament and Robben hopes that he will not become the latest World Cup casualty ahead of the tournament’s opening on June 11 in Johannesburg. The Netherlands’ skipper Giovanni van Bronckhorst, like his Coach, was pleased by his performance, but agreed that the result was tainted with Robben’s despair. “It was a magnificent match but Arjen’s injury overshadowed everything,” said van Bronckhorst, who added: “I’m not very optimistic. He’s in real pain and finds it difficult to walk.”

Robben was one of the most impressive players against Hungary after coming on as a second half substitute to score his brace of goals. However, the Oranje faithful could take comfort in the fact that Holland’s other big name players such as Arsenal’s Robin van Persie and Inter’s Wesley Sneijder are going into the tournament on a high after the duo scored a goal each. Robben’s Bayern teammate Mark van Bommel and the youngster Eljero Elia scored the other two goals in the game. Should Robben have to sit out the whole campaign or a few games then Elia may well be one of the men who could fill his shoes. The winger has not only caught the eye of van Marwijk though, as he has also impressed enough to draw the attention of Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, who is looking to increase the strength of his squad now that the Lilywhites have Champions League football in the offing for next season.

Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt or Ryan Babel could also fill in for Robben if the needs be. Kuyt has shown some impressive touches pre-tournament and has racked up a few assists. Although he’s traditionally a front-man he has been utilised for his club as a right-sided midfielder and has developed a decent delivery. As for Babel, he’s been out-of-favour for his club but has shown glimpses of what he can do, particularly his venomous shooting ability – as shown with his stunning strike against Lyon in the Champions League last season.

The Netherlands have up until June 13 to decide whether or not Robben will be fit to compete in the tournament as it is the day before they are due to play their first game against Denmark.

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