Arjen Robben was forced to watch from the dugout as his Netherlands team-mates beat Denmark 2-0 in their opening match, with the Bayern Munich winger still to shake off a hamstring injury before he can enter the fray at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Ahead of the Oranje's second group match against Japan on 19 June in Durban, the 26-year-old spoke to FIFA about his injury, his hopes and expectations for the tournament, and which teams he regards as favourites to lift the Trophy.
FIFA: Arjen, you had a fantastic season until your injury. What went through your mind when you were injured?
Arjen Robben: My first thought of course was 'that was it' and 'the World Cup is over'. But I tried to look at the possibilities of still coming to the World Cup, and we did everything to make this happen. I’m glad to be here now and I'm hoping to join in with the rest of the group as quickly as possible.
Can you describe how the injury was caused?
It was in our friendly against Hungary, a few minutes before the end. The game was practically over. I wanted to play the ball to the outside with my heel. I just made an unfortunate movement that caused the muscle to tense too much, and it just went wrong.
It must have taken a lot of motivation to get to the FIFA World Cup in time. Does it feel a little strange to be joining the squad this late?
Of course it is strange, because you’re part of a process with the group. I was already a bit late because we were playing in the Champions League final. Now it’s even stranger. While I’ve been working on getting fit, the squad has been here in South Africa for a week. Eventually you join the group just in time for the first game, and the guys are already preparing. I just hope to get into the same rhythm soon, because the squad is the first priority and I need to try to work my way back in.
How’s your fitness? Are you 100 per cent fit yet?
I’m in good shape, I’ve made a lot of process, and I’ve been able to work well with the muscle. It’s almost completely healed, but I’m still a couple of per cent short. I still have to train with the ball, then train with the group. The games can only come after that.
What are your expectations for the FIFA World Cup?
The expectations are high. You go to the World Cup to win the title. All countries go there to win, but you have to be realistic and know that it’s very hard. There are a lot of big teams at the World Cup with a lot of quality. But I think we have a very good group of players and I think we can accomplish something at this World Cup.
The Netherlands boast tremendous attacking potential. How important is someone like Wesley Sneijder for you as a player and for the whole team?
Wesley plays in the middle, behind the striker. He’s an important player, especially for the guys that play in front of him. He's an excellent passer and has great vision. As an attacker you can benefit from the way his passes open up the game. You know the ball can come your way.
How important is coach Bert van Marwijk? What are his specific characteristics?
I think he’s been very clear from the beginning about what he wants from this group of players. And in preparation for a match, everyone always knows what they’re supposed to be doing. I think he’s a coach who can communicate that in a very calm manner. He keeps the peace in the team, and I think those are good characteristics.
Finally, who are your favourites to win the tournament, apart from the Netherlands?
That’s always very hard to say. Everyone has their favourites, but the past has shown that it’s not always one of the favourites who takes the title. Everyone talks about the Brazilians, Argentina and Spain, and you can name one or two more. Of course these are great countries, but I think there are still some nations left that might surprise us.