Following a rampant 6-1 friendly victory over Hungary, the Netherlands national squad were in good spirits as they arrived at their Johannesburg headquarters on Sunday morning, in spite of the notable absence of Arjen Robben. The staff at the team hotel were decked out in full orange attire as they greeted the Dutch players and coaches with a wonderful display of song and dance.
"It's great. We had a good flight too," said coach Bert van Marwijk, putting on a brave face with the availability of his star man hanging by a thread. The Dutch flew to South Africa soon after Saturday evening's victory and now have just over a week to prepare for their first 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Group E match against Denmark.
Whether van Marwijk will be able to call upon the talismanic winger remains to be seen. Robben injured a muscle in his left thigh just five minutes before the end of his side's 6-1 victory and was substituted immediately. "Arjen felt a stinging pain and that's never a good sign," said the Oranje coach.
Victory pales into insignificance
An MRI scan on Sunday should give further indication as to the severity of the injury. "I'm not giving up hope," continued van Marwijk. "As long as there's a chance that Arjen can play at the World Cup, he'll remain in the squad." The former Feyenoord supremo refused to be drawn on who he saw as a possible replacement for the fleet-footed wide man: "I'm not thinking about that yet."
The Netherlands' highly encouraging performance in their final pre-tournament friendly paled into insignificance in the light of Robben's ill fortune. Robin van Persie had cancelled out Balazs Dzsudzsak's early opener before Wesley Sneijder put the Dutch in front shortly after the restart. The Dutch hit their stride in the final half hour of the match as Robben (2), Mark van Bommel and Eljero Elia all registered further strikes.
"We were all just thinking about Arjen. Nobody spoke about the win," said Elia, who, along with around 16 million Oranje fans back home, has his fingers crossed that Robben will recover in time to play at least some part in South Africa.