Sitting at the pre-match press conference ahead of Netherlands’ highly anticipated Group B fixture against Spain, Arjen Robben is trying to ditch all the questions related to 11 July 2010.
That cold winter’s night in Johannesburg will be remembered by every Netherlands fan and indeed Robben as a day when their country should have won their first World Cup title.
However, despite a brave performance by the Oranje, it was not meant to be as a dramatic extra-time by Andres Iniesta gifted Spain their first World Cup title.
Indeed, Robben had not only one golden opportunity but two, to put his country ahead having been twice through on goal with only Iker Cassias to beat.
However, it is probably the miss on 60 minutes when Wesley Sneijder picked out a perfect ball to release Robben who only had to lob Cassias to give the Netherlands to lead only to see his tame shot diverted off the legs of Cassias and out for a corner.
Never have the Dutch come so close to winning their first World Cup and it seems that the collective disappointment eclipses the 1974 final where they lost 2-1 to bitter rivals West-Germany.
Four years down the line Robben and his Netherlands team mates will once again line up against Vincent Del Bosque’s Spain with one eye on redemption.
A smile breaks out on the 30 year old’s face as he explains how things are different and how he is only looking to the future. Indeed, it is only fair to look to the future rather than to dwell on the past, especially in terms of the Netherland’s chances against Spain and indeed the rest of their involvement in the tournament.
A lot has changed in regards to Robben and the Netherlands since that warm-blooded encounter against Spain in Soccer City. The Bayern Munich midfielder is arguably in the prime of his career, and having just come off the back of a season where he has not only scored 21 goals in 45 matches in every competition, but he has been able to remain injury free.
The former Chelsea midfielder is far more mellow these days in comparison to the pre 2010 World Cup season where he was seen as something of a scapegoat for both club and country.
However, these are not the only things which have changed in the past four years and it can be argued that Robben has now become the answer to the Netherlands World Cup ambitions.
The answer is simple, if Robben doesn’t play well then the whole team doesn’t play well and without the attacking midfielder in their side, Van Gaal’s side look extremely average.
Once were the days when the Oranje were able to rely upon the services of hard-nuts Mark Van Bommel and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst to deliver match-winning performances, with these duties now in the hands of the inexperienced midfield trio of Daley Blind, Jordy Clasie and Memphis Depay.
With questions raised about Robin Van Persie’s fitness, Robben’s role has never been as big, with the midfield maestro single handedly expected to run the whole show against Spain.
At this moment in time it seems likely that everything will be going through Robben for the course of the tournament and with the midfielder having one eye on doing what he does best, playing for himself, tonight could be a recipe for disaster.
Just as the Netherlands go to the extent of spending millions of euros every year on the building of dams to protect the low lying country for flooding, it seems that the national football team are putting too much emphasis on Robben.
Van Gaal’s team are collectively too weak in every area across the park, especially their hollow defence to put all their eggs into one basket.
One thing for certain is that the Netherlands are unlikely to win the World Cup let alone featuring for the second consecutive in a final.
The KNVB has set a target for Van Gaal’s to reach the semi-finals at least and it will be interesting to see if they indeed get this far with the help of Robben.
One thing is for sure is that the former Real Madrid midfielder must stay true to his words when he says that he is only looking to the future when his side line up against Spain in what should be a pulsating fixture.
Robben must play it safe tonight and should not be aiming to score a goal at every single opportunity, and it can be argued that one poor game against Spain could mean curtains for Van Gaal’s largely inexperienced side.
And with a slippery fixture to come against Australia followed by a date with Chile, a team who look far stronger collectively than the Netherlands, the 1988 European Cup winners could be on their way home, without a single victory.
As a result it can go either one or two ways, either Robben plays it safe and banishes the demons of the final in South Africa four years ago, whilst either defeating or securing a draw against Spain as a team member, or he reverts back to his old self and plays it greedy.
Everyone knows that the Oranje has a weak team, and that includes Robben, so the danger of the number ten doing everything for himself against Spain is quite paramount.
A point against Spain before a difficult fixture head of two tricky fixtures against Australia and Chile is the minimum requirement to get out off their group.
It is fair to say that the proverb is true in suggesting that the Netherlands chances of success at the World Cup remain solely on the shoulders of their number 11.
Will he still be smiling following the result against Chile on Monday 23rd June?
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