“I wouldn’t swap Robben for any player in the world. He's having an amazing World Cup."
As tributes go, Dirk Kuyt's ranks among the most glowing of Brazil 2014. And while fans of Messi, Neymar or Ronaldo may quibble with the Dutch veteran's opening statement, his latter is inarguable.
By any reckoning, Robben has been one of the outstanding players of this FIFA World Cup™. Any adjective short of 'amazing' would sell short performances that, throughout, have inspired and propelled the Netherlands.
Louis van Gaal's side haven't always had things their own way at Brazil 2014, with their victory over Mexico in the Round of 16 the third in which they have been forced to come from behind. But when the going has got tough, Robben has always got going, speedily, hungrily leading Dutch attacks with crucial goals and assists.
Costa Rica are certainly sure to have pinpointed the Bayern Munich winger as a key source of danger ahead of Saturday's quarter-final, and they will face a player who is, as he told FIFA, relishing every moment of his World Cup experience.
FIFA: Arjen, the Mexico match - what a game. How was the experience for you? Arjen Robben:Yes, unbelievable. Right after the game, it was quite hard to appreciate what we had just achieved. With three or to four minutes to go, were out of the tournament. Then at the final whistle, we didn't even need extra-time - we had qualified. Two goals in five minutes - it was a fantastic comeback.
*Did you always feel that it would come right in the end? *Well, no. I thought during the first half we weren't good when Mexico had possession, and that was an area we had been very strong in during our first three games. That will have to improve against Costa Rica. In general, I think we were stronger when we had the ball, so that's a plus. But they were a little bit better than us in the first half. We let them play a bit too much.
*Can you explain how the team turned things around? *We changed our formation at a certain point, but I think it resulted from both sides. We were really looking to score a goal and were playing with three attackers in the end - four at times - whereas they were retreating a lot. I think they even substituted their striker and started playing more and more defensively. So they really gave the initiative to us and we made the most of that, creating a lot of chances.
*Yet again, the substitutes made a positive impact. Whereas Memphis Depay scored in the other games, this time it was Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Does that tell us anything about the quality of the squad and Louis van Gaal as a manager? *Well, we have a fantastic manager who knows exactly which players to bring on at what time and how to change things on the pitch, so that's fantastic. And although Klaas-Jan and Memphis have both scored, I feel every player who has come on in the games so far has had an influence and done a fantastic job. Ultimately, that's the kind of strength you need to win a World Cup.
*What about the penalty? Why did Huntelaar take it? *Well, I think that was a very wise decision. We're talking again about one of the substitutes, who came on fresh and focused. And with his shooting technique, he scores goals so easily, even from the penalty spot. I had a lot of confidence in him and he himself was very convinced [that he would score].
*You have been a key player in every game so far and people have even been mentioning you as a potential player of the tournament. How are you feeling at the moment? *I just feel very strong. I feel good, I feel fit, and I think that's the most important [thing] because I can transfer everything on to the pitch. I'm having a lot of fun and really enjoying it here. In the second half [against Mexico], I was on the ball more and I could threaten the opposition going forward. That's a nice feeling. Mentally, I feel really good and, physically, I feel very strong. I can play my football and I'm really happy that I can help the team. I think we (the senior players) also have the responsibility for the younger guys. We try to take them along and I think we've got a good mixture of experience and youth at the moment. Again, everything we do, we do together and it was beautiful to turn the [Mexico] game around as a team.
*Although there's a lot of respect for the Netherlands' achievements, some are saying the team aren't playing a typically Dutch style of football. What's your view? *Of course we're used to playing 4-3-3, attacking football with two wingers, but I think you also have to look at the quality of the squad. That's what we did, and what the manager did. We spoke about it a lot with him and decided to play a slightly different system. I think it's very functional, maybe not as dominant as we are used to playing, but still very good. And we've played four games and scored 12 goals, so that's pretty positive.
*Given your involvement in the 2010 Final, do you see yourself as a man on a mission here? *I think we are on a mission together, and when you come to a World Cup it's not to enjoy the weather and enjoy the beach in Rio. You're here to win matches and to go as far as possible. I don't think the expectations were that high before the tournament and, as a result, we can be very proud of where we are.
*Finally, Costa Rica are your quarter-final opponents. What do you know about them? *I think they're a very strong team. We have to stay focused. Costa Rica have a very good team, they have already proved that in their group, which was very tough, with Italy, England and Uruguay in there. They've been really impressive and we'll have to prepare very well if we're going to beat them.