Arjen Robben 'is the Dutch Leo Messi'

ByESPN staff via ESPN logo
Thursday, July 10, 2014

Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder has said in-form Arjen Robben is as important to the Oranje as Lionel Messi is to Argentina.

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Robben has been one of the stars of the World Cup, signalling his intent with a devastating two-goal display in the 5-1 demolition of defending champions Spain.

And Sneijder believes he is crucial to Dutch hopes of overcoming Messi and Argentina in Wednesday's semifinal.

"At this tournament more than any other tournament, Robben is to the Netherlands what Lionel Messi is to Argentina," he told reporters.

"He constantly occupies two or three opponents, creating space for others. Against Costa Rica [the last eight match won by Netherlands on penalties] he did that a number of times, and that helped us."

His comments were echoed by Netherlands legend Johnny Rep, who said Bayern Munich man Robben had been the player of the tournament so far.

Rep, 62 -- twice a World Cup runner-up -- told L'Equipe he believed Robben has outshone Messi and said he felt the Dutch were more than capable of taking their place in Sunday's final.

"The team is playing better and better, it is mentally strong, is lucky and has Robben," he said.

"People talk a lot about Messi and James Rodriguez at this World Cup, but for me, the best player is Robben. He was already good in 2010, but now he's really been extraordinary. I had never seen him play like that. Robben is the Dutch Messi."

He said he was "a little surprised" that Netherlands had reached the last four, but added: "In the Netherlands, many thought we wouldn't get through the group stage. I was more optimistic, even if we weren't playing well. That's why I made France, Chile or even Belgium my outsiders. But France ran out of steam, unlike Netherlands."

Robben's contribution has made Louis van Gaal's team increasingly confident that this could be their year, and forward Dirk Kuyt said the aim was to "bring the World Cup home."

"We want to measure ourselves against the best and beat the best," he said.

"I think it's a great tournament so far. The football, the atmosphere in Brazil, the brilliant games and the way we won the duels: beautiful. And now we compete with Argentina.

"I understand that there are 40,000 Argentinians who will be in the stadium. I love that. Against Chile and Mexico, our fans were in the minority. Hostility gives us strength."

ESPN correspondent Ian Holyman contributed to this report.

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