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For Arjen Robben, the UEFA EURO 2008™ experience has totally changed in the space of a few days. The Real Madrid CF attacker suffered an injury before the Netherlands' opening game against Italy but returned against France to really make a difference.
"I was ready and really looking forward to the tournament when my world fell apart a bit," Robben told euro2008.com. "Only two days before the tournament I broke down with a groin injury. But I had to focus very fast, and tell myself, 'Go for it' and we worked very hard to restore my fitness."
Robben did just that and made the perfect UEFA EURO 2008™ entrance as a substitute against France.
'Reward for hard work'
He first laid on an assist for Robin van Persie to put the Dutch 2-0 ahead and then scored their vital third goal, shortly after the French had reduced the deficit. "It was a perfect moment to score. They had made it 2-1, and you saw they gained strength from that, you saw them thinking 'There is more in this' now. But we ended all that by scoring the third," Robben recalled with a twinkle in his eyes. "When you get rewarded for hard work, by coming in like this and proving important to the team, then that is just fantastic."
The Dutch players celebrated qualification for the quarter-finals with family and fans in the stadium afterwards. "It's great to share that joy with the family, certainly with the kids. It should be like that. That also has to do with the Berne stadium. It's a beautiful stadium, the stands are close to the pitch and the families are nearby, without any fences separating us."
Alongside Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wesley Sneijder, it meant there were a total of three Real Madrid CF players involved in the defeat of France. "The three of us have an excellent relationship, on and off the pitch," Robben said. "There's a good connection with Wesley, he knows exactly where I want the ball. It can only be an advantage that we play together with Real. The euphoria from the fans and press is logical considering we have beaten big nations in the way we did.
Feet on the ground
"But we have to keep our feet on the ground and just keep on performing at the level we did before, looking for improvements," he continued. "We are in the quarter-finals now, and can go into the Romania match without pressure. We always want to win and perform and after that it doesn't matter who we meet in the quarter-finals. We must only look at ourselves. If we keep up this quality level, we don't need to fear any opponent."
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