As we approach the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 12, the Sports Unbiased Crew will be releasing guides to help make better sense of what you watch as the world’s best soccer players converge on Brazil this summer. Check in regularly as we preview the eight groups, 32 teams, and key players that will play an integral role in determining the next world champion.
Whether the Netherlands are able to go one step further this summer than they did in 2010 will depend heavily on the play of Arjen Robben one of the best wingers in the world.
Robben terrorizes defenses along the flanks thanks to his speed, dribbling skills, power, crossing ability, and a lethal left foot. Operating primarily on the right wing (though he is able to switch sides during a match), he loves cutting inside on his left foot allowing him opportunities to shoot at goal. He is one of a few players capable of deciding a match on his own.
At the age of 30, this may very well be the last World Cup in the career of the electric Dutch winger. If that is the case, then the Netherlands hope that he will be able to go out with a bang.
Before Going Pro
Born on January 23 1984 in Bedum, Robben fell in love with football at a very early age. He was tutored under the Coerver Method (a coaching technique named after legendary Dutch manager Wiel Coerver) where he developed his dribbling and ball control skills. He was signed by regional club FC Groningen and placed in their youth academy. It was there he developed his distinctive ability of cutting inside from the right side of the field onto his stronger left foot to score goals.
Robben joined Groningen’s first team during the 1999-2000 season. By the following season, he had earned a place in their starting lineup. His play continued to improve during the 2001-02 season, scoring six goals in 28 appearances. Robben transferred to PSV Eindhoven before the start of the 2002-03 and had a successful first year at the club, helping them capture their 17th Dutch title. He scored 12 goals in 33 matches, and won the Talented Player of the Year award. Things did not go as well in what was an injury-plagued second season. He played in just 23 Eredivisie matches and scored only five goals. In the summer of 2004, Chelsea would outbid Manchester United for the services of the Dutch winger.
Due to a broken bone in his right foot, Robben did not make his Chelsea debut until November 2004. He proved to be a vital contributor to the club, as Chelsea went on to claim their first league title in 50 years. He scored seven goals in just 18 league matches and finished runner up to Wayne Rooney for PFA Young Player of the Year. Robben scored six goals in 28 matches the next season to help Chelsea retain the Premier League title. Robben was never able to escape the injury bug however, and in the 2006-07 season he scored a career-worst two goals in just 21 league matches. He would move to Real Madrid in August 2007. He made his league debut on September 23 and quickly became a staple on the left wing. He ended his season with five goals in 28 appearances as Real Madrid won the league title. He was even better the following season, with eight goals in 35 appearances. However, he was deemed expendable before the start of the 2009-10 season thanks to the arrivals of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. Robben would move to German club Bayern Munich on August 28.
Robben made his debut on August 29, 2009, scoring two goals and assisting on another as a substitute in a win against Wolfsburg. He finished as Bayern’s top scorer and led them to the Bundesliga title and German Cup double. Robben was named Footballer of the Year in Germany in 2010 (the first Dutch to receive the honor) and was nominated for the 2010 Ballon d’Or award. In 2012 Robben helped Bayern reach the UEFA Champions League final which was played at their home stadium in Munich (beating former club Real Madrid in the semifinals) but lost to Chelsea on penalties. In 2012-13, Robben led Bayern to perhaps the greatest season in club history, winning a historic league, cup and Champions League treble. Robben would record his third league and cup double in his fifth season with the club in 2014.
Robben made his debut for the Netherlands during Euro 2004 as manager Dick Advocaat opted for younger players. He helped them to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, scoring two goals in six matches. He helped the Netherlands to advance from the group stage where they were eliminated by Portugal in the second round. He was also selected for the 2010 World Cup despite suffering a hamstring injury. He missed their first two matches, and was instrumental during the knockout phase, scoring goals in the second round against Slovakia and the semifinal against Uruguay. In the final he played the entire match as the Dutch lost 1-0 to Spain. Robben was nominated for the 2010 World Cup Golden Ball (for the tournament’s best player) which was won by Diego Forlan of Uruguay.
Robben was selected for the Euro 2012 side. The Netherlands had a terrible tournament, and failed to make the knockout phase after losing all three matches in the group stage.