A day prior to the Dutch facing off against Spain at Soccer City in the Final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, Arsenal ace Robin van Persie spoke exclusively with FIFA about his fears, excitement and dreams. “Spain are slight favourites,” he admitted in a candid interview before discussing what it would mean to be a part of the first Dutch side to bring home a world crown.
FIFA: What has coach Bert van Marwijk said to you about playing in the Final?
Robin van Persie: He’s said a lot, but the most important thing is that we got this far, which is good, but it can even be better. We have to show up one more time. We have to give everything one more time and then, hopefully, something beautiful can happen and we can make a lot of people very happy.
The Netherlands have played in two Finals before, in 1974 and 1978. You must be hoping it is third time lucky...
I really do hope so. I experienced it a little bit, what it meant for Holland. Everyone was so happy and now it can even be a step further, a step higher. That’s what we need to make sure of now. This is the third time in our history that we’ve reached the Final, so it’s already quite an achievement that we’re here. But sometimes when you lose by an inch, people are disappointed despite having a great tournament. Hopefully we can prevent this.
Spain, who you will face in the Final, were clearly the better team in their semi-final with Germany. Does this worry you?
Spain are mostly concerned with keeping possession of the ball. I believe you have to put pressure on them. If you don't do that, you’ll let them dominate the match and you put your fate in their hands. I’m not a fan of that.
Many people consider Spain to be favourites in the Final. How do you see Vicente del Bosque’s team?
They are a fantastic team. They have very good defenders and fantastic midfielders. They have very good forwards and they pass the ball brilliantly. I also think they are favourites to win this final, but that doesn’t say everything. It actually says nothing. It will probably be a beautiful final because we also like to play football with good combinations. I think that we’ll give each other space to play football.
So, the Dutch are underdogs?
Yes. I think Spain are slight favourites in this match because they were European champions two years ago and they just have a very good group. But we have that as well.
Do you feel pressure mounting as the Final gets closer?
Not really. We don't have any idea of all that’s happening in Holland, or in the rest of the world, regarding the pressure and media attention, and it has to stay like that.
Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas is your team-mate at Arsenal. Have you had any contact with him? Would it be strange to play against him?
It’s always a bit strange to play against your colleagues, and we have been in touch via SMS a couple of times. Cesc is a fantastic player. I also find it really strange that he isn’t in the first team for Spain. I don't understand that at all. I think he’s incredible. I’ve been playing at Arsenal for six years with him and every year he’s improved. He’s the captain of our team and I have a lot of respect for him.
You have a picture in your home of Diego Maradona holding the World Cup in his hands. Can you describe what he means to you?
Actually, I never really thought that I’d ever be able to have such a picture [with myself as the subject]. And it’s getting close now. I have a very beautiful picture of him [Maradona], where he’s on the shoulders of a couple of colleagues while he’s holding the cup with a big smile. The picture is hanging in my games room, and it’s a fantastic picture. He expresses a lot of happiness and passion, and everything that a footballer has to have. And maybe, if we win, I can also take such a picture with the Cup.
What do you expect the final moments before the Final to be like, can you describe them?
I’ve never played such a Final of course. I’m not too chatty with the opponent. I keep it short and sweet when talking to them. It’s no different than a match in the Premier League or in Europe. You need to have a firm base. When you enter the stadium you have 45 minutes to do everything - taping your ankles or getting a short massage. When you go outside you have 30 minutes to prepare yourself and then the match starts, so there isn’t anything really exciting.
You are 90 minutes away from being a world champion...
It’s bizarre and it’s weird. I try not to think about it too much. I try to think about the game itself and not about the consequences.