Thursday 5 June 2008

Robben ready to fly again

Arjen Robben is hitting form at the right time for the Netherlands

In the Netherlands' UEFA EURO 2008™ warm-up matches, one player has caught the eye more than any other – winger Arjen Robben.

Sparking to life
The 24-year-old has been fast and direct, displaying a willingness to dribble past opponents whenever possible. Robben, who won the Primera División with Real Madrid CF alongside Wesley Sneijder and Ruud van Nistelrooy, returned to Oranje action in style against Denmark on 29 May. He set up Van Nistelrooy's opener in that 1-1 draw, then scored his ninth goal in 33 internationals against Wales four days later. It was form recalling his youthful best, before the injuries that limited him to 12 league starts in his first season with Real Madrid.

Happy return
"I feel very strong and fit now," the former FC Groningen, PSV Eindhoven and Chelsea FC flier told "I have been out of international football because of injuries for far too long. I am delighted to be back with the squad after more than six months." Robben's previous outing for Marco van Basten's team had been the UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier against Slovenia on 17 October. He attributes his recovery to a tip from former FC Twente coach Fred Rutten, who contacted Robben's father to recommend an osteopath from his own playing days. "He worked with me for some time and unlocked certain parts of my back, and that has been a big help," said the wide man.

'On the right track'
The collective picture, as well as the personal, gives Robben hope for the Netherlands' Group C tests to come. "We have put in some good performances, we have shown good things and we have improved where necessary, so we are on the right track," he said. "But whether that will be enough, we will only find out during the group stage." The Oranje's first game is against world champions Italy in Berne on Monday, before meetings with France on 13 June and Romania four days later. "Obviously Italy are a very strong footballing nation and, as a team, they are always very well-organised," the winger continued. "But they are not the only strong side at EURO and everyone is here to win it."

Cannavaro sympathy
For all his desire for Dutch success, Robben takes no pleasure in the misfortune of Italy captain and Real Madrid team-mate Fabio Cannavaro – ruled out of the tournament this week with an ankle injury. "I did not find that good news at all," he said. "It is very sad as I know what it means to miss out on things through injury. But Italy have enough quality to replace him, they can cope. The match against Italy is going to be about the small details, which in the end will decide who will win. It will not be easy for either side."