DURBAN - Netherlands winger Arjen Robben
needed only 18 minutes against Slovakia on Monday to underline
that his qualities gives the Dutch team exactly what they missed
during the World Cup group phase.
An excellent long pass from Wesley Sneijder sent Robben away
on the right flank, where the left-footed player cut in and went
past two Slovak defenders to put the Dutch ahead with a well
placed shot inside the near post.
It spurred the Dutch to a 2-1 win that earned them a spot in
Friday's quarter-final in Port Elizabeth, their first since 1998
when they finished fourth.
"I think I've scored a few goals like that, I'm left-footed
and I play on the right side. A lot of the time I go inside and
look for the shot," he told a news conference at the Moses
Mabhida stadium in Durban.
"I waited for the right time. I waited for a step made
towards me and I decided to go inside and he couldn't stop me
any more and then I had the freedom to shoot."
The 26-year-old Robben, already at his fourth major
tournament, went a long way to pay back the confidence coach
Bert van Marwijk showed in him after he got injured six days
before the start of the World Cup on June 11.
Robben did not join the squad travelling to South Africa but
started his recovery in Rotterdam and followed a week later and
made his first appearance against Cameroon last Thursday, where
his shot off the post gave Klaas-Jan Huntelaar the opportunity
to net a rebound.
With Rafael van der Vaart injured for the match against the
central Europeans, Van Marwijk took the risk to start with
Robben and knew he had made the right choice after 18 minutes.
"If you look just in terms of the injury, it's a big moment
because it's a long sprint and you need to be explosive. In
general I was pretty free in this game, but I also know that I'm
not yet at my top level," said Robben.
"It was a very difficult match, we didn't play our best
match today but in the end it's about winning. Hopefully, we
will save our best match for when it is needed.
"It was a great experience to be on the pitch again from the
first minute and to be decisive for the team, it's a great
feeling," he added.
Teammate Dirk Kuyt, who scored the second goal, was forced
to move from the right flank to make way for Robben and
displayed his willingness to play for the team.
"For me there is no difference as my tasks are the same but
everyone knows how dangerous Arjen can be coming from the right
flank," he told Reuters.
"And if you see how he fills it in, that is amazing."
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