Holland has earned their “flying Dutchman” moniker this World Cup — for better or for worse.
During Sunday’s game, wily and crafty all-world superstar Arjen Robben was challenged in extra time in the penalty box by Mexico defender and captain Rafa Marquez. After a challenge that was late and may have grazed Robben’s foot, the Dutch star used that moment to flail his arms in the air and collapse in the penalty box.
Mission accomplished: Robben, the Bayern Munich star, got his team a penalty kick to win the game minutes after the Dutch scored on an equalizer when Mexico failed to mark Wesley Sneijder, who boomed home the tying goal, after a corner. Robben was denied a more legitimate penalty in the first half when he was fouled in the penalty box, so the referee may have given up a makeup call — or he may have wanted to get off the field in a game that needed two water/cooling breaks because of temperatures that neared 100 degrees.
After the game, Marquez said Robben privately admitted to him that he dove on the decisive play. “I spoke with Robben after the match and he told me that it was not a penalty,” Marquez said, according to the BBC. “He said that the first foul was a penalty and that one was not called.”
Robben, always mischievous, told Dutch television: “I have to apologise. In the first half I took a dive. The one at the end was a penalty.”
Mexico coach Miguel Herrera was incensed, calling Robben a flat-out cheater, saying, “the referee gave a penalty that was invented by him.”
“Robben did three dives for penalties that didn’t exist. He had to be cautioned,” he said. “If you do that to the guy who tries to cheat, then he can’t cheat again. Robben should have got a second card. If you don’t do anything as a referee, the player carries on. He knows he won’t be expelled from the pitch so he carries on”
Herrera said, “the least we can hope is that this gentleman goes home just like us.”
Robben asked Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to take the penalty kick against Guillermo Ochoa, the Mexican goalkeeper who has been the Great Wall this World Cup. Huntelaar nailed it and then did karate kicked the flag during his celebration.
Robin Van Persie’s header against Spain in Holland’s rout to open up the World Cup may be the goal of the tournament. It established this team once again as the “flying Dutchmen” and helped knock out the defending champions and signaled an auspicious start for the often mercurial, unpredictable Dutch team that is always superbly talented.