Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez has said Spain are wary of the threat posed by club teammate Arjen Robben ahead of the team’s opening World Cup game against the Netherlands tomorrow.
The two face off in a repeat of the 2010 final in South Africa and Martinez was quick to remind everyone of the crucial role Robben played on that day, despite ending up on the losing side.
‘The other day I was talking to Arjen Robben about the 2010 World Cup when, with the score at 0-0, keeper Iker Casillas saved his one-on-one,’ he said. ‘Then, when we [Bayern Munich] played the 2013 Champions League final, I asked him if he had the chance to score again please don’t fail and that time he had an 89th minute winner.’
Set to play in his third consecutive World Cup, Robben is one of seven survivors from the squad which fell at the final hurdle four years ago, along with Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong, Dirk Kuyt, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Michel Vorm.
Martinez meanwhile is figuring in his second World Cup with Spain, as La Roja look to get off to an impressive start in their bid to win an unprecedented fourth major international tournament in a row.
A Premier League star with Chelsea for three seasons before departing for Real Madrid in 2007, Robben has been one of the stalwarts of the Dutch team for over a decade now and is essential to their plans this summer, as manager Louis van Gaal looks to end his tenure on a high note before departing for Manchester United after the tournament.
Despite injury ruling out impact players Kevin Strootman and Rafael van der Vaart, the Netherlands remain one of the more fancied teams in Brazil and their recent switch from van Gaal’s traditional 4-3-3 system to a new 5-3-2 setup has led to optimism about springing a potential surprise over the reigning world champions in Salvador.
With 75 caps and 23 international goals, 30-year-old Robben may be getting up there in age but the Bayern winger has demonstrated over the past few years in the Bundesliga that he still remains one of the most effective and feared players in Europe.
Also taking on the not-to-be underestimated Chile and Australia in Group B, the Dutch face a far from easy task progressing to the last 16 but, with the talent and experience of players like Robben, complimented by a crop of promising youngsters coming through, Spain certainly have every reason to be wary of their opponents.