Had the sun still been in the sky when the final whistle blew on the Netherlands’ 5-1 mauling of reigning world champions Spain, it would surely have been outshone by Arjen Robben. The 30-year-old was in electrifying form and capped his first outing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with a brace to help get coach Louis van Gaal’s young Dutch team off to the perfect start.
That Robben would be beaming at the end of the 90 minutes appeared unlikely earlier in the game. The Bayern Munich attacker lost a boot following a shot at Iker Casillas’s goal and subsequently wrestled with uncooperative laces to try and put it back on. In the second half, however, the same piece of footwear proved to be rather more obliging as Robben twice found the target.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to have scored those goals,” Robben told FIFA.com afterwards, although he was eager to share credit for the surprising victory with his colleagues: “I have to say, I’m just so proud of my team. It’s always nice to score a couple of goals but I’m far prouder of the side. I’m proud of our performance because that’s what really matters.”
We need to stay focused and just keep doing what we have been doing. Tomorrow we start again.
It was the second time that Robben had made amends for previous shortcomings on the international stage. After missing a penalty in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final that Bayern lost on home turf, it was Robben who hit the winner a year later in the continental decider against Borussia Dortmund.
And this latest performance against La Furia Roja goes some way to making up for his miss when one-on-one with Casillas in the South Africa 2010 Final, even if the stakes were rather different.
“You can’t compare this game with that one from four years ago,” Robben said. “Back then it was a Final and today it was a group match. We played against the toughest opponents and, in pure footballing terms, the best team in the world. We matched them well and took our chances.”
After recording the perfect start to their World Cup campaign, the objective for the Netherlands is to build on that display in their second fixture. “We need to stay focused and just keep doing what we have been doing,” he said, smiling as he boarded the team bus. “Tomorrow we start again.”