Arjen Robben playing to his strengths
FORTALEZA, Brazil -- Following the Netherlands' miraculous comeback against Mexico, Arjen Robben admitted it. He dived -- but not on the play everyone is talking about.
The Dutch forward earned a highly contentious stoppage-time penalty when he appeared to be felled by Mexico defender Rafa Marquez. The ensuing spot kick was converted by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to give the Dutch a last-gasp 2-1 victory. The goal came just minutes after Wesley Sneijder had equalized to give the Netherlands a lifeline.
It proved to be a brutal end for El Tri, who insisted that no foul had been committed. Replays showed that there was contact, but it's also clear Robben sold it well.
Afterward, in an interview with Dutch outlet NOS, Robben insisted the penalty call was legitimate, though he admitted to diving just before halftime when he went to ground just outside the Mexico penalty area.
"I must apologize," he told NOS. "The one [at the end] was a penalty, but the other one was a dive in the first half. I shouldn't be doing that."
Robben went on to add that he should have had two penalties in the first half, including an incident in which Mexico defender Hector Moreno was injured.
"[Moreno] hit me in the shin, and then he hit me again," Robben said. "If that is not a penalty, I do not know."
That will prove to be scant comfort to El Tri supporters, and now Robben will be cast in the role of villain.
Does he deserve it? Aside from the obvious sentiments of El Tri fans, that's a tough one given that there was contact on the play and it did appear to be a legitimate penalty. Robben is clearly a brilliant player, but it's fair to say he dives more than most. Some of this is down to style, given that he's a player whose strength is running at people and defenders will do their utmost to stop him, fairly or unfairly.
So to insinuate that forwards from Mexico, or any other country for that matter, wouldn't have done the same thing in his position is ridiculous. Players pull on shirts and seek to gain any advantage possible. It's an unfortunate part of the game, but it will be with us until technology is invented that can spot every infraction.
Some say that the World Cup is better with players like Robben in it. Without question, his close control and goal scoring are a joy to watch. But that is to ignore some fantastic players from Mexico, like Giovani dos Santos, who scored Mexico's opener, and Hector Herrera, who was brilliant throughout the tournament.
Part of the drama of soccer is its creation of heroes and villains. Without question, a good chunk of the world will be watching to see what Robben does next.