Why Arjen Robben is the best, and other stories…

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On with the Oranje!!

Gary Lineker tweeted this after Holland – Chile: “For now, Arjen Robben is the best player of the World Cup.” Here is ten reasons why.

Lionel Messi may be the natural heir of Maradona but should there ever be one non Argentine who deserves this monniker it will be Arjen Robben, from Bedum. Like with Maradona, Robben’s dribbles start on his own half this World Cup. And he will keep on taking on opponents even if they jump on his back with three of them. His solos are made easily at the start of the game as in the final minutes of the game.

So here is one reason. Robben doesn’t play in a team with internationally experienced cracks like Neymar with Brazil, Rooney with England or Muller with the Germans. It is Robben who makes the difference with 5 players from the Dutch Eredivisie in his team. Should Holland win the World Cup, it’ll be like Ajax winning the Champions League. German reporter Milani says “Robben is more important than Muller for the Germans or Neymar for Brazil. The Germans also see Robben as the best player of the tournament, at this stage.”


And take also on board all the things they yelled at him in the past. Arjen Flop. The Man of Glas. The King of the Dive. In 2012, the whole supporter group of Bayern Munich booed him and his team mates called him “Aleinikov” ( Egotist, basically), meaning that he should pass the ball more often. His current performance will sooth his hurt soul. He will never mention revenge as a driving factor, but it will most likely play a part. Robben has an ego too. That makes him so strong.

Then there is Robben, enjoying himself in the game. He is literally liberated from playing on the flanks. That is a factor as well. People think Robben is a born winger. He is not. He used to play as playmaker in the youth. An actual number 10. But when he made his debut at FC Groningen his coach put him on the wing, to protect him a bit from the butcher central defenders. At Bayern, his only release from the right flank, is when he switches with Ribery to the left flank. In Oranje, he has total freedom. He can go where he wants and he pays it back with dividends. Bild Zeitung in Germany rated his performance against Chile with a 1. The highest possible and normally only for players who score a hattrick.

arjen 2


Mark van Bommel mentions the fifth reason why Arjen is the best. “Robben played at this level before, but the difference with Bayern or Real Madrid or Chelsea is that with those clubs he would get the ball in the final third. He would not have lots of space to dribble, pace up, taken on opponents and decide what to do: shoot or pass or cross. With this Oranje game plan, he has more space to make better decisions and to utilise his speed more. Sanchez of Chile is basically a similar player but he is only used in the final third of the pitch and there is simply less space to operate in.”

Reason six comes back to the playmaker role. Robben is the man who can score from a throughpass, but he can also give the throughpass… In the first phase of the Spain game, it was Robben who launched Sneijder into space with a perfect touch. This is also a skill Robben has.

Number seven: he is 30 years old. A bit older than Messi, Aguero, Muller, Hazard, Neymar and you name ‘m. He could have been on his way back. Marco van Basten had to retire already a year ago, when he was 30. And Robben history of injuries seemed to go in that direction, but this is where his personality shows. “At Bayern, I do a check up every week. Everything. Bones, muscles, blood, everything. No coincidences for me.” Arjen Robben grew into an iron man, a fitness wonder.

arjen depay

Winning the Champions League in 2013 was not the end of his career and hopefully not the high point either. It’s rather the start of a new era. As if he is capable of making another leap in his career. And enjoying thee game as if he is 14 years old again. Bert van Marwijk: “Some players will become somewhat satisfied after a big win. It’s as if they reached their goal and need time to find another motivation. With Robben, it’s the other way around. Whenever he achieves something, he wants more. A typical character trait of a winner.”

In three World Cup games, Robben has been the skipper three times (parts of the games, at least). The English Guardian praises him as the Man of the Tournament based on his charisma and leadership. “As a young player, he never looked like a skipper or leader. But now, it clicks. He is mature now and offers a mix of get-go, confidence and focus. This combination will make him the man of the tournament.”

And the tenth reason? Simple. Because he is Dutch. And if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much. Arjen Robben, the best player of this World Cup! And most likely, the best on the planet.

zico lvg

Brazilian and Flamengo legend Zico with Sparta midfielder Van Gaal

While we swoon over our main man, it is good to see how other ex-top players praise Holland and are almost in line to enter the hotel and meet the lads. Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Viera, Fabio Cannavaro, Arsene Wenger, Zico… just a short list of icons who came and visited the Dutch players. Kees Jansma even said the Dutch team received a standing ovation from the international media when Van Persie and Van Gaal entered the press room, the other day.

Still, it is not all kudos and cheers. Top names like Willem van Hanegem, Frank de Boer and Jorge Valdano think Van Gaal is taking the 5-3-2 too far. Valdano: “I don’t see Van Gaal as a top coach. I see Menotti, Cruyff and Guardiola as top. Van Gaal has committed treason to the Dutch. Normally, the Dutch want the ball and do something special with it. This Oranje doesn’t seem to want the ball. A great coach has a vision and sticks to it and makes his team work with it. Cruyff would never negotiate his ideas and vision. I rather see a fool play adventurous football and lose than seeing a shrewd statistician like Van Gaal ruin the game.”

Louis gek

“But I am a fool too!”

De Boer and Van Hanegem didn’t use those terms, to be honest. Willem simply hopes Holland will do better in possession (which is what Van Gaal says too!) and De Boer sees this 5-3-2 as a new trend. And Ajax will have to learn to break this down. De Boer claims he knows how to do this, but refuses to discuss this in the media. “Because we will probably need to do this and I don’t want to make the opponent smarter than they are.”

Back in Rio, Louis van Gaal led the last training session before the Mexican Standoff. “And I realise that this actually might be the last one, because should we lose the game, we will not be doing any training anymore. Weird idea.” The session clearly showed Kuyt again as left back in the 5-3-2, as Martins Indi is still a question mark. The Feyenoord defender is free from pain but has had a little dip in his fitness as a result of his concussion. It seems that Gio Wijnaldum will again get the nod over De Guzman. And obviously, it is Jeremain Lens who will have to make way for captain Robin van Persie.

As it will be very humid in Fortaleza, the ref will have the option to allow an extra drink break of three minutes, when the temperature hits 32 degrees Celcius or more. This will be welcome for the Dutchies for sure.


Georginhio Wijnaldum is 23 years old. And therefore still considered young. The former Feyenoord midfielder made his debut for the club from Rotterdam at 16 years old! And has already played seven seasons at the highest level in Holland. Last season however, was not a great success as he was injured and sidelined for half of it. “Playing football after being away for so long is different. You value everything more. The little things. Being outside, playing football with your mates in the sunshine, the things you take for granted… I can totally enjoy that again. I feel like I’m 14 years old, really. When you become more experienced, it starts to become work. It’s more business like. But now, I have that old feeling back.” A highly annoying back injury kept Wijaldum from the pitch. And he had several set backs getting back in shape. When he finally made his return in PSV in March 2014, he never expected to be called up. “Mr Van Gaal said that the France squad would be his base line squad. That game was in March and I wasn’t part of it. But I guess I got a bit lucky, what with the injuries in midfield  (Van der Vaart, Van Ginkel, Strootman) and the fact that some lads weren’t playing too much (Afellay, Maher). When I did get the call up for the prelim squad I made the vow to give everything I have to make the cut. And now I’m in and I will do all I can to play and be valuable for the team.”

gio and de vrij

Wijnaldum and De Vrij

Wijnaldum takes the role of Strootman. The connection man in midfield. The box to box runner. Not his typical role, as he played winger for Feyenoord and Jong Oranje and the number 10 role for PSV. “I can play diferent roles I suppose, but as I haven’t played a full season I am very fit now. I am probably amongst the fittest players. And I will do all I can to make it work.” He had good sub turns against Spain and Australia and got the nod over De Guzman vs Chile as the Swansea midfielder was not 100% fit. “We are doing fine as a unit. We performed better than many expected but we shouldn’t overdo it now. Some people think we will stroll to the finals. I think any of the last 16 nations will be able to win it. We simply need to work very hard and be smart and go from game to game.”

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  1. After WC 2010 I (like everyone else) was depressed.

    After considerable thought I decided that one player stood out for me as wanting to win it all, as having the right attitude,and as very very nearly winning it all for the Netherlands – it was Arjen Robben.

    I bought his jersey while visiting Europe – and I am delighted to get another chance to watch this amazing player at the top level of the game. Robben is just astonishing at the way he can totally confound defenders.

    I love it!!!

    (But — lets all keep in mind — we haven’t won anything yet…nothing — Mexico is next that’s all.)

    PS: Van Gaal “Ignore the critics completely you are on the right track!”

  2. The 5-3-2 is effective because it is a counter-attacking formation–and counter-attack is the best way to score goals. Possession is nice–and I agree the Dutch need to be better in possession and need more composure (that has been a disappointment)–but when the opponent’s defenders are back buildup and possession lead to…usually nothing! It is nearly impossible to score when 7 or more are back in front of their goal, unless you create a corner and then make something of it. But beating 7/8 defenders is typically impossible.

    We saw this with Spain and they were criticized a lot for it the last two+ years–a lot of kicking the ball around that amounts to nothing. Now, parking the bus is not good, but I think there is a middle ground that can be effective–and with RVP and Robben the counter is dangerous. Frankly, the Dutch are not quick enough generally and not good enough in midfield right now to play wide-open style with some teams. LVG should stay the course and I think he will.

    1. The 5-3-2 formation also seems to conserve the players’ energy, which will be important in the hot/humid conditions.
      Mexico also seems very fit, so we should not expect them to be too tired at the end of the game.
      The one thing that I seriously hope is that the game doesn’t go into extra time. That would be torture for the players.

  3. “I rather see a fool play adventurous football and lose than seeing a shrewd statistician like Van Gaal ruin the game.”

    And Mr Van Hanegem. This is why Holland have never been world champions.

    1. We have to play to win now and not play to feel. LVG knows what he is doing and he proved it as of today. Not many predict we will thrash spain. Not many think we can control aussies and not many think we can contain chile but we did. As what LVG said in one of the PC before, we can still play attractive beautiful football even with 5-3-2 and 4-3-3 will allways still be oranje core tactic. You can see in the previous game …we can swiftly change to 4-3-3 confortably after starting with 5-3-2. The players are versatile and given clear instruction of their expected role etc. and that contributes to the win so lets sit back and enjoy ! HUP HUP ORANJE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. The game against Mexico will be a real battle. Every player has to be a 100% focused so we can make it to the next round. So far we haven’t achieved anything…yea sure we humiliated Spain, we easily beat dangerous Chile but if we don’t beat Mexico all that would be for nothing!!

    Mexico basically plays the same way like Chile (running all over the field, quick passes, fast counters) but they do not have the attackers that Chile has. Defensively they are a little taller than the Chileans but lets not forget that Marquez, who is 35 years old will have a very difficult time with either Robben or Van Persie.

    As far as the critics go, everyone should understand that sometimes you have to play defensive (considering our inexperienced defenders). We have showed the world that we can play beautiful attacking football but playing that way we haven’t won anything, so its time for us to try a different playing style, a style that is not gonna amuse people but its going to be productive and by productive i mean to finally lift the trophy that we so deserve.

    P.S. I’d like to see Van Hanegem, De Boer and Valdano play attractive football with this inexperienced defense that the Dutch team has. I’m sure that they would lose every game 7-3!!

    P.S. Wesley Sneijder please have a big game!!

    P.S. In Van Gaal we trust and let the haters hate.

  5. “I rather see a fool play adventurous football and lose than seeing a shrewd statistician like Van Gaal ruin the game.”

    Honestly , does this Oranje ruin the game ?
    Man , I did enjoy all three games and How Oranje was able to win “beautifully” .
    We didn’t have possession against spain , but scored 5 goals , I prefer that over possession and I DO enjoy every second of it.
    We’re playing beautiful , effective and with the tools we have.
    MvB tried to play beautiful in 2006 with young inexperienced players , but we neither played good , won the title nor even went far in the tournament despite being in an easier group.
    You can’t play beautiful and win with such young unexprienced lads in the WC. It will be similar to FdB/Ajax case in CL. W
    People need to know , Possession football doesn’t necessarily mean beautiful football and vice versa.

    1. The next game will be just as hard – we haven’t done anything yet.

      However some positives:

      Van Gaal is not ruining football! He has simply brought 4 different teams to this tournament. BRILLIANT!!

      This group can park the bus – if necessary.
      This group can hold possession and pass – if necessary.
      This group can counter attack – when ever they want.
      This group has legs and youth (and Kuyt) – it can run forever – if they have to.

      For each game LVG rolls out a different team. (See today’s 4-3-3 formation vs Mexico’s 5-3-2 for example)

      Van Gaal is an arrogant opinionated SOB – but he is not stupid and he built this team for the conditions.

      The next game will be tough – but as always – the Nederland NT is fun to watch!

  6. it is easy to sit in a nice air-conditioned studio with a couple of hot ladies surrounding you and give theories right and left about how to play attractive and dominant!!! easy for ronald de boer or van hanegem to say it in a nice studio, but on the field it is not that easy if u dont have the quality!!

  7. Janmaat to be benched for verghaeh potential lineup

    ————-blind—————de vrij————-

    1. Janmaat has not really delivered thus far in the tournament. He did have a fine assist against Chile on the corner. But overall not his usual caliber.

      It might be good that Verhaegh is fresh. He is an aggressive player and may be just what we need to battle Mexico. He also likes to bomb forward, if that’s what LvG wants him to do.

  8. i feel nervous about the game, but i did also feel nervous for the game against chile, and the game against spain, so hey, maybe i shouldn’t feel confident like australia.

    also the referee will be proenca from portugal who has given out many yellow and red cards lately

    1. Proenca may be fine for us. He gave a red card out, but not too many yellows really.
      Had the ref in Brazil-Mexico given more yellows when deserved, that would have been a different game. Mexico got away with a lot of hard fouls to slow down Brazil. I think Brazil just gave up after a while and settled for the draw, because they didn’t want to keep getting hacked.
      So against the Dutch, Mexico may have to clean up its act a bit or else face some consequences.

  9. In their preview for the game, goal.com are predicting a Mexico win because of the bad weather conditions!! I hope the weather spent affect our players negatively!!

  10. I believe LvG will stick with winning team without changing anybody. I personally like Janmaat a lot. He is not a superstar on the field but he does what he has to do. The same relates to everybody, including Sneijder. I said that before and will repeat it again: Wesley will be a huge help in one of the most crucial moments for Dutch in this WC. Let’s wish good luck to Oranje. I believe in my team!

  11. It is interesting that Germany is now the team playing with the Dutch style.

    Despite having all of their holding midfielders injured or in questionable form (Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Bender, Gündogan), they switch their formation from 4-2-3-1 to a more attacking Dutch 4-3-3, play an outside back (Lahm) as a holder, and use four center backs at the back.

    Holland loses one player (Strootman), dramatically changes formation and tactics, and now merely defends and counters.

    Yet Germany, facing similar challenges, keeps playing in their own style with attractive, attacking football.

    They have a tremendous peace in their actions, and almost all players are able to play off of their opponents.

    I would love to see Holland play this way!

    1. All that said, the fact that we’re even having these debates (here and elsewhere) about style vs results is a testament to the quality of Dutch football over the years.

      What other countries in the world would be unhappy with a 3-0 record in the World Cup with 10 goals scored and 3 allowed?

      The only examples I can think of are those truly dominant nations in a sport – where they have experienced so much success that style matters — Canada in hockey, the USA in basketball, and Brazil in football.

      I actually think the debate is healthy and holds our players and coaches to a higher standard. We may not have won a World Cup (yet), but we demand that our teams play with style and quality!

      1. @JB
        No, I dont share that mentality. Let’s win at least one first! For now, I will stick to what’s working.
        Germany did change their style. They didnt play like this when they won the World Cup.

  12. Watching Brazil – Chile….Chile needs to play more robust in defense, too much space is given to Brazil. Can not wait when Brazil is out of this competition….

  13. I really do not understand this fascination against “counter”. It is a system and so far, this system works. We played with different system before and it did not work. Instead of being applauded for the ability to adapt (vs Spain, vs Australia and vs Chile) – which to me is a genius move/tactic – LvG is being criticized.

    Doesn’t Brazil play this way as well? probably even worse, I can’t even continue watching this Brazil vs Chile match. Asking for calls everytime they are touched? touching the ball to score and pretended to celebrate first? (good job, Howard Webb for disallowing that “goal”!) Chile is an “exciting team”? “Neymar is a special player”? Come on ….. does anyone here have any doubt Robben would have scored on that 1:1 run that Neymar had in the first half?

    There are always be haters but so far I’m enjoying the ride. I’ve always told my football watching friends that I think Robben is the best player in the world. He got discounted by his injuries and perceived floppings. Did anyone who says he flops ever think it just happened because he runs so fast?

    The Wall Street Journal had this “flopping index” in the World Cup so far. Looks who is at #2 (in term of least flopping):

    Hup Holland Hup!

  14. Brazil is a very athletic team and very direct when they get the ball; they do believe in kicking it around a lot or in much buildup, from what I see. Would love to see Chile win this game.

    1. Brazil play much better without Paulinho in the lineup. Fernandinho took his spot.
      Seemed to me like Brazil expended a lot of energy early in the game and ran out of steam in the second half. Chile pacing themselves better.

  15. One more: it’s rich Valdano is saying something about playing beautiful football when in 1986 everyone but the ref saw the bogus “hand of god” that gave Argentina the trophy.

    Yes, Jorge we may not play “adventurous” football because we do NOT try to score using our hand!

  16. Extra time for Brazil-Chile. Uggh. Is there anyone who enjoys watching when the players are so tired?
    Here is my proposal: In order to prevent the game slowing down when the players think extra time is likely, I would suggest that each team get 2 more subs in the extra time period. With up to 5 fresh players, teams will play with more energy for the full 120 minutes.

    1. I like the idea, too. I’ve never understood the tradition in soccer of only 3 substitutions per match–seems too few! What this the thinking? Why not three subs a half?

  17. Brazil through, heartbreak for Chile. If only that last minute shot didn’t rattle the bar. Jeez I hate Brazil especially Scolari, Marcelo, Alves and Neymar. Never thought Julio Cesar would be so good but again chileans hit some bad penalties.

    1. That was a great chance–and he should have put it in the net. Of course Brazil came close a few times in the first half, too! It was there for Chile in the second half.

      1. I totally agree. Scolari is a disgrace always yelling at the referee. Too bad for Chile, but honestly I thought Brazil would find a way to win. But they are beatable. If Brazil manages to go through Columbia-Uruguay, I don’t think they will win against either France or Germany.
        Is it true that Verhaegh is starting tomorrow? I find that strange and hard to believe?

  18. With respect to Dutch, they have to be calm, and quietly win Mexico within 90 min. I think they can do that without putting much efforts. Mexico is a good team with exceptionally “good looking” coach. But they are beatable, and LvG knows that….Problem will grow if the game goes beyond 90 minutes, which is absolutely unnecessary for Oranje.

  19. Brasil very lucky today. Chile go out with full honours.

    Im nervous about tomorrow especially because of the weather. Fortaleza is one of the hottest regions. We will be playing in 30 deg temp, hopefully it will be cloudy.

    I see this WC as very unfair in terms of playing conditions. The stadiums are in various regions with different climates, ranging from tropical to cool European like weather. So its not the same for everyone. Luckily Holland only have one match in tough climate – tomorrow’s match.

    1. Did you hear what Pirlo said about the weather conditions. He said there were two World Cups in Brazil–one in the northern part of the country and another in the South. I saw Italy play one game–their second, I think–and they had absolutely no energy.

    2. blame fifa for idiotically scheduling games in the afternoon in the sweltering Brazilian heat. These game should be played at night. But cant do that since they want to pander to their European audience.

  20. Even after the hitting the crossbar, I still feel Chile had their chance in PK had they practiced PK. That would bring up the question: Should we practice PK? I know that we would like to win in 90 min, or extra time, but to win the WC we need to prepare to win PK as well. Brazil got lucky and I think Colombia can beat Brazil. I will cheer for Colombia.
    I just have one more comment about those laser pointing at the Russian keeper just before Algeria tie the game. It was a disgrace! Those fans who used the laser should be banned and kicked out of the country.

  21. So close to game time. I can barely think of anything else. Mexico will play 532 also right? Does anyone have an idea of how a 532 vs a 532 will match up? Wings will be a huge factor We will have to watch out for Layun who crosses the ball a lot.

    All our world cup games take years away from my life haha. Hope it’s a good one. 🙂 Hup Holland

  22. Guys…weather channel says a high of 56 F with am showers in Fortaleza. This surely is more like dutch weather than Mexican! Can’t help but think that this will help our boys….

    1. scratch that…apparently there are a bunch of Fortalezas….and I chose one in the south….the one we are playing at will be 87F with 65% humidity. 🙁

      1. I clicked on the MAP part of weather.com…and it took me to a Fortaleza in the south/central part of the country…did another search and found another Fortaleza in the north central…I’m telling you, they really like that city name!

        I’m very worried about this game – the weather, the “team spirit” of Mexico…the track record of Euros in South America….it just has disaster written all over it. I’m praying I’m wrong. We have way more class than them, but I remember Russia in 08, Italy in Euro 2000, Portugal in 06….

    Referee: Pedro PROENÇA (POR)
    Assistant Referee 1: Bertino MIRANDA (POR)
    Assistant Referee 2: Tiago TRIGO (POR)
    Fourth Official: Carlos VERA (ECU)
    Standby Assistant Referee: Christian LESCANO (ECU)
    Blog Referee Observer: Niclas (GER)

  24. Hi guys, no preview Mexico post before the game. There is not much news other than that Paul Verhaegh apparently gets the nod over Janmaat.

    Not sure why! Maybe Janmaat isn’t fit, maybe there is something else. On the same day, the news breaks that ManU is interested in Janmaat, so I can’t see LVG being unhappy with Daryl’s performance. Or is it that Mexico has a very good left winger??

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