Arjen Robben latest: 'I did dive but I didn’t cheat and I won’t be changing,' Netherlands winger claims
Winger went down in controversial circumstances against Mexico
Monday 30 June 2014
From Maastricht in the south to the Friesen islands in the north it was hailed as “The Miracle of the Castelao”, but like so many miracles not everybody believed in it. Today both Arjen Robben and the Dutch FA denied they had cheated their way into a World Cup quarter-final.
The Bayern Munich forward admitted to diving in the first half in a vain attempt to win a penalty when the Netherlands were being remorselessly driven back by Mexico in the crushing heat of Fortaleza. However, while calling it “awful and stupid”, he said it had “no influence on the game” and added that he had definitely been fouled by the Mexico captain, Rafael Marquez, for the stoppage-time penalty winner converted by Klaas Jan Huntelaar.
The man accused by Arséne Wenger of being “a master of getting something out of nothing”, when Bayern Munich overcame Arsenal in the Champions League last season, added that he saw no reason to change his game.
Despite the fact that Robben admitted to the dive, Fifa said it would be taking no action against the 30-year-old because it had not been “a serious breach of fairplay regulations”. The words of the Fifa spokesman, Delia Fisher, will simply confirm the view in Mexico that the Dutch comeback in a 2-1 win will be forever a tainted miracle.
Asked at the Netherlands’ base in Rio de Janeiro if he feared being banned for the quarter-final with Costa Rica, Robben replied: “No, I was not afraid. I am an honest guy and [the dive] had no influence on the game.
“It is a shame, because after the match I was very honest and sometimes you are punished for your honesty. There was one moment where I went to ground in the first half because I thought I was about to be tackled but he took his foot away at the last minute and I went to ground. It was a stupid action but during the match we had two clear penalties – one was given the other was not.”
The other penalty claim, when Robben was tackled first by Marquez and then by Hector Moreno, seemed the clearest call of the afternoon. However, if he was touched by Marquez in the final seconds, it hardly justified the familiar arched-back fall to earth.
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The view of the Mexico manager, Miguel Herrera, was that if Robben had been booked for the dive he admitted to, he might not have risked throwing himself to the grass in those final seconds. The Netherlands, without Robben and facing half an hour of extra-time, would have been very vulnerable.
Robben is not the only footballer to have thrown himself to the floor in a major tournament. Alan Shearer’s last act as England captain was to dive in a vain attempt to win a penalty as the team faced elimination from Euro 2000. “I was just trying to win an advantage for my country,” Shearer said by way of an explanation that was accepted by the English press.
The Dutch media have backed Robben, and not just because he looks the likeliest player to take them to a fourth World Cup final. “Robben had already deserved one penalty kick when he was touched by Marquez and then finally brought down by Hector Moreno in the first half,” wrote De Telegraaf. The tabloid De Volkskrant told their readers: “Robben was a boxer looking for the knockout blow against a reeling opponent. He got the deserved penalty after a somewhat exaggerated fall.”
The papers across the Netherlands have been far less kind to his manager, Louis van Gaal. Johan Cruyff, whose opinions have hovered over successive Dutch managers like an elegant vulture, argued that Van Gaal, who had been criticised for overly defensive tactics, had found his best formation by accident. With time evaporating, Cruyff said Van Gaal had no choice but to throw Dirk Kuyt forward with Huntelaar and Robben. “This was the most important 20 minutes of the World Cup,” he said. “It shows how incredibly beautiful football can be. Despite the heat, when you play football like this, it immediately gives you more options. Now we have to play the football we are capable of.”
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