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Robben defies the years, if not gravity

Last Updated: Friday, July 04, 2014, 16:13
  
Robben defies the years, if not gravity
Salvador: Three goals, a whiff of scandal from his seemingly tenuous relationship with gravity, outstanding allround performances and the record for the fastest player on the planet, Arjen Robben`s World Cup has been nothing if not memorable.

The Bayern Munich winger approaches the Netherlands` quarter-final with Costa Rica in Salvador on Saturday having stirred up a storm over his frank admission of diving.

The 30-year-old told Dutch television he had deliberately dived in the Netherlands` last 16 win over Mexico on Sunday.

But not, crucially, when he won a match-winning injury time penalty converted by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for the 2-1 win when tumbling to the turf after contact with Mexican defender Rafael Marquez.

Robben has long been accused of having a problem staying upright, notably when last season a war of words erupted between him and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

His mea culpa inevitably generated headlines back home in the Netherlands, although FIFA and the Ditch federation announced they had no intendion of sanctioning him.

"Sometimes honesty is punished. I prefer honesty," Robben said on Monday.

"During the first half, there was a foul, I went to the ground because I thought he would tackle but then he removed his leg.

"It`s a pity because people forget a great performance by the entire team. And that`s the main thing. Sometimes I am honest. I apologise but that`s football.

"It was one stupid action and it had no influence on the game. We had two clear penalties situation, only one was given."

That aside, the shaven-headed forward`s Brazil 2014 bank balance is very firmly in credit.

Robben is attacking this tournament like a player ten years his junior.

He was clocked at 37 kilometres per hour (23 miles per hour) during Holland`s 5-1 rout of Spain - a new record for a footballer.

With Robin van Persie, also on the three goal mark, Robben has put their productivity down to the tactical system set in motion by coach Louis van Gaal.

"I`m a player who craves counter-attacks," explains Robben.

"The fact that our defence plays very deep frees up a lot of space for Robin and me. We have the whole pitch for leading counter-attacks."

After Holland`s 2-0 win over Chile, where he delivered the decisive pass to Memphis Depay for the second goal, Robben received praise from among others former England great Gary Lineker.

"The best player of the World Cup group stage is Arjen Robben. He`s been utterly outstanding!" said Lineker, now a television presenter.

"I feel in the form of my life," Robben admits.

"When I don`t have any physical problems, I play liberated and I think that shows."

Managing his delicate thirtysomething body is vital, especially in light of his poor injury record which at Bayern earned him the nickname `crystal man`.

Apart from on the eve of matches he avoids taking part in collective training sessions, instead restricting himself to jogging and fitness exercises.

Ready to continue the good work against the Costa Ricans.
AFP

First Published: Thursday, July 03, 2014, 21:23




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