Robben fires Dutch into quarters


Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder fired Netherlands into the World Cup quarter-finals after a comfortable 2-1 win over Slovakia in the second round yesterday.
Winger Robben, making his first start in South Africa after suffering a hamstring injury, rifled home a solo effort after 18 minutes to give the Dutch the lead, before Sneijder wrapped it up six minutes from the end.
Slovakia, who last week sent holders Italy packing with a 3-2 upset, got a consolation with the last kick of the game when Robert Vittek scored from the penalty spot.
“That was nice today. If you’re at the World Cup it should be fun. We didn’t play our best match today but the important thing is that we advanced,” Robben said.
“The most important thing for me is to play my first match. It’s only three weeks after the injury. That’s not a lot of time. Today I felt good, maybe not 100 percent but I felt good.”
The victory at the Moses Mabhida Stadium sends the Dutch into a last eight meeting with the winners of last night’s other second round match between Brazil and Chile on Friday.
“I think we’ve got to improve for the quarter-finals. We’ll have to play better than today (yesterday),” added Robben, who missed the first two matches of the campaign with injury.
In his 71 minutes on the pitch, the winger was at the heart of all of the most threatening moves from a Dutch team who had otherwise looked as devoid of flair as they had when grinding out three wins in their group matches.
He scored the first when Sneijder’s superb long ball out of defence gave him room to run at the Slovaks, and he sprinted towards goal before cutting inside two defenders outside the penalty area and drilling a left-footed shot into the corner of Jan Mucha’s net.
Robben nearly scored a second goal from a similar position at the start of the second half but this time Mucha got a hand to the ball to send it around the post.
Slovakia had few opportunities and when clear chances fell to Miroslav Stoch and Vittek in the 67th minute, Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg provide equal to both of them.
The game was as good as over in the 84th minute when, after a quick free, Dirk Kuyt beat Mucha to the ball and he squared to Sneijder to sidefoot into an empty net from the penalty spot.
In the third-minute of injury time, Stekelenburg brought down Martin Jakubko and Vittek converted the penalty.
Fixtures today
Japan-Paraguay (1600hrs)
Spain-Portugal (2030pm)
Quarterfinal fixtures so far:
Uruguay vs Ghana (2 July, Port Elizabeth), Argentina vs Germany (3 July, Ellis Park, Johannesburg), Winner Japan/Paraguay vs Winner Spain/Portugal (6 July, Cape Town)