Few would blame Arjen Robben if he spent the next couple of days sifting through painful memories. The last sight the Netherlands winger took in at a FIFA World Cup™ was, after all, of Friday's opponents, Spain, lifting the Trophy he so coveted.

It was, though, another recollection - of being foiled in a key one-on-one with Iker Casillas midway through the second half - that tormented Robben most over the days and months that followed. "I think about it a lot," he conceded in the tournament's aftermath. "It hurts to miss such a chance."

Yet it was a buoyant rather than regretful player who spoke to FIFA.com ahead of the Salvador rematch with La Roja. Much of 30-year-old's relaxed, positive demeanour could be attributed to his personal fortunes since his joyless Johannesburg night, with Robben having conquered Europe and the world with Bayern Munich, scoring the winner in a UEFA Champions League final in which he was named Man of the Match.

Yet the 30-year-old's contentment seemed to owe as much to the young Dutch players alongside him in Brazil, the system they have adopted and, crucially, the man at the helm. Such is his mood that he was even able to reflect on 2010 with pride rather than remorse, and even to highlight it as his favourite World Cup of all.

"I feel very good at the moment, both physically and mentally," he said. "A World Cup is always something special and I am very excited to be in Brazil for this one. I have special memories about every World Cup I have watched or played in, but South Africa was a really great tournament for me. It was obviously a big disappointment we lost the Final, but I am still really proud of what we all achieved together."

Spain are the reigning world and European Champion, and two teams from Spain played this season's Champions League final. That says it all.

Arjen Robben

It is, however, a new team under a new coach that will be attempting to emulate or surpass that momentous achievement. Robben, in fact, is one of just seven veterans of that 2010 campaign to have made the Netherlands' squad - Spain, by contrast, have retained 16 - and while Vicente Del Bosque still rules the Roja roost, the Dutch now answer to Louis van Gaal. The change at the top is, though, seen as a positive by a player who has thrived for both club and country under the Manchester United-bound tactician.

"I worked with him at Bayern Munich before he took this job, so he has been very important to my career," Robben said of Van Gaal. "Along with [Pep] Guardiola, I can say he is the best coach I ever had."

One of Van Gaal's most important, and controversial, decisions in the build-up to the World Cup has been the changing of Netherlands' traditional 4-3-3 formation in favour of 5-3-2. Robben, however, was consulted on the tactical change along with the Oranje's other key man, Robin van Persie, and has no regrets about offering his wholehearted support. "We have played three matches with the new formation," he explained, "and none of our opponents - Ecuador, Wales and Ghana - created a lot of chances, whereas we did. I'm really confident that this is the best way for us to play in at the moment."

Assured and evidently at ease with the team's direction under Van Gaal, Robben is nonetheless realistic about their pre-tournament prospects. The bookmakers' odds reflect the Netherlands' status as outsiders, and having been grouped with Spain, Australia and a much-admired Chile side, there are even questions about whether they will survive to see the Round of 16. But while Robben understands these doubts, he believes that those who perceive his team's youth to be a disadvantage could yet be in for a surprise.

"We have a young team, but it is talented," he said. "Experience is important, especially mentally. But on the pitch it is all about playing in the right way, doing what you have to do - and it doesn’t matter if you are 22 or 32. You just have to do what is asked for.

"That said, in my opinion Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany are the favourites. It will be hard for us because we have to play a very tough group. Spain are the reigning world and European Champions, and two teams from Spain played this season's Champions League final. That says it all. Chile also have a very strong team with really good players who want to play in an attacking way. And Australia are physically strong. We have played a few matches against them and were never able to win.

"But our preparations have been going well so far. I'm really happy we are in Brazil now. You can feel the tournament is about to start. Brazil is one of the greatest football countries in the world - maybe the greatest - so it is fantastic the World Cup has been organised here. I hope and expect that this will be a unique event for the Brazilian people and for everyone watching at home."

And if it ends having created happy Dutch memories, all the better.