Dutch Legend Arjen Robben Retires

Robben, Ribery Help Bayern Go Five Points Clear In Bundesliga
Ex-Bayern Munich’s Dutch midfielder Arjen Robben reacts during the German first division Bundesliga football match FC Bayern Munich v Hanover 96 in Munich, southern Germany on May 4, 2019. Christof STACHE / AFP


Dutch football great Arjen Robben announced his retirement from his youth club FC Groningen on Thursday, ending an illustrious career spanning two decades.

Considered to be one of the best wingers of his generation, Robben rejoined FC Groningen last year after stints that saw him win accolades at Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, in later years.

“I’ve decided to stop with my active football career,” Robben said in a Tweet.

“It was a difficult choice,” said the 37-year-old of his decision, which was also confirmed by FC Groningen.

“Everybody around FC Groningen hoped and wished that Robben would continue for another season, he has decided to stop after much deliberation,” the club said in a statement.

One of the fastest and most skillful dribblers in his prime, with a devastating left foot, Robben scored more than 200 goals at club level and 37 for the Netherlands, the last against Sweden in Amsterdam in October 2017.

After his debut at FC Groningen during the 2000-01 season, Robben transferred to PSV in 2002-03.

His first overseas transfer came two years later when he went to Chelsea and played an important role in helping the west London club win the English Premier League in 2005-06.

Robben moved to Real Madrid in 2007 for a reported fee of around 35 million euros, before joining Bayern in 2009, where he played a major role in the southern German club’s success.

The bald Dutchman scored his last league goal for Bayern in May 2019, amassing 99 goals in 201 Bundesliga matches.

Robben said a month later he would retire, but he was lured back to play for FC Groningen last year.

Playing for the Netherlands, Robben had a major part in propelling the Dutch team to a World Cup final in South Africa in 2010 and a third place finish in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

But the winger had been plagued throughout his career by injury.

“Looking back on the past season, I have to come to the honest conclusion that the number of match minutes was disappointing,” Robben said Thursday.

“The football heart wants to continue…, but the decision to quit is fair and realistic,” Robben said.


Arjen Robben Announces Retirement From Football

Bayern Munich’s Dutch midfielder Arjen Robben reacts after scoring during the German First division Bundesliga football match FC Bayern Munich v Eintracht Frankfurt in Munich, southern Germany.  Christof STACHE / AFP


Dutch winger Arjen Robben announced on Thursday he is ending his playing career at the age of 35 after a 10-year spell with German giants Bayern Munich.

“It is without a doubt the most difficult decision I have had to make in my career, my heart says yes, my body says no,” Robben told the Telegraaf.

His contract at Bayern had expired on June 30.

Robben played 96 international matches for the Netherlands, scoring 37 goals, and starred in the team which reached the 2010 World Cup final and finished third four years later.

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He won two Premier League titles under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in 2005 and 2006, before claiming a La Liga winner’s medal with Real Madrid.

But Robben, a Groningen youth product, will be best remembered for his time at Bayern. He helped the Bavarians to eight Bundesliga crowns, five German Cups and the 2013 Champions League title, scoring 144 goals in 309 appearances for the club.

There had been speculation Robben would continue playing, with a possible return to England mooted, but instead, he has decided to hang up his boots after a career which was often blighted by injuries.

“At the moment I’m fit and healthy and as a fan of many other sports, I want to keep it that way in the future,” Robben added.

At Bayern, he combined with fellow winger Franck Ribery to great effect as the pair earned the nickname ‘Robbery’.

“Thank you, Danke, merci, dankjewel @arjenrobben,” wrote the 36-year-old Ribery, whose Bayern contract also expired last month, on Twitter.

“Best @FCBayern counterpart I could imagine, #Robbery will never be forgotten! What a career my friend, now enjoy your time off the pitch.”

Robben had already retired from international football after the Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

He missed the majority of Bayern’s tight title contest against Borussia Dortmund in the second half of the last term but returned late in the season.

Robben and Ribery both scored in their farewell appearance as Bayern secured a seventh straight German league title on the final day of the season with a 5-1 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt.


Robben, Ribery Help Bayern Go Five Points Clear In Bundesliga

Robben, Ribery Help Bayern Go Five Points Clear In Bundesliga
Bayern Munich’s Dutch midfielder Arjen Robben reacts during the German first division Bundesliga football match FC Bayern Munich v Hanover 96 in Munich, southern Germany on May 4, 2019. Christof STACHE / AFP


Arjen Robben said his Bayern Munich journey was not yet over after he and Franck Ribery returned from injury on Saturday to help Bayern to a 3-1 win over Hanover and heap pressure on Bundesliga title rivals Borussia Dortmund. 

The veteran wingers, both of whom are set to leave Bayern at the end of the season, came off the bench as Bayern made heavy weather of a crucial victory over the Bundesliga’s bottom club.

Ribery scored what may be his last ever goal at the Allianz Arena to seal a 3-1 win and put Bayern five points clear of title rivals Borussia Dortmund, who face a tough trip to Werder Bremen later on Saturday.

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Robben, who had not played since November, told Sky that his cameo appearance would not be his last for Bayern.

“I always said I didn’t want to come back just to wave to the fans and say goodbye. There are two games left and the German Cup final, so there is more to come,” he said.

Hanover kept Bayern at bay for nearly half an hour before Robert Lewandowski headed the hosts ahead from close range and Leon Goretzka curled the second in off the post.

The visitors hit back after half-time with a Jonathas penalty, the result of a highly controversial handball decision from VAR against Jerome Boateng.

Ribery secured the win six minutes from time, and the home fans had more reason to cheer a few minutes from time when Robben was brought on moments later.

Borussia Moenchengladbach and Hoffenheim both stumbled in the race for the top four, as they shared the points in a 2-2 draw.

Matthias Ginter cancelled out Pavel Kaderabek’s opener before Nadiem Amiri restored the lead with a fine volley. Josip Drmic saved Gladbach’s Champions League hopes with a late equaliser.

At the bottom of the table, relegation looms ever larger for Nuremberg, after goals from Felix Klaus and Marcel Tisserand saw them lose 2-0 in Wolfsburg.

They and Hanover were spared relegation for at least another week, however, as Hertha Berlin won 3-1 at home to Stuttgart, who remain in the relegation play-off place.

Vedad Ibisevic ended Hertha’s 395-minute goal drought when he prodded them ahead on 40 minutes.

Goals from Ondrej Duda and Salomon Kalou sealed the win for Hertha, despite a late consolation header from Mario Gomez.


Bayern Without Injured Robben For Ajax Clash

Bayern Munich’s defender Jerome Boateng, Bayern Munich’s defender Niklas Suele, Bayern Munich’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski and Bayern Munich’s midfielder Serge Gnabry celebrate after scoring the second goal during the German first division Bundesliga football match Bayern Munich vs Nuremberg on December 8, 2018 in Munich.
Christof STACHE / AFP


Veteran Dutch winger Arjen Robben will play no part in Bayern Munich’s Champions League clash at Ajax due to an ongoing knee injury, the Bundesliga giants said Tuesday.

Robben, 34, has been out injured since scoring twice in a 5-1 win over group rivals Benfica last month and has yet to fully recover.

Robben, who scored Bayern’s winning goal against Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League final, confirmed in Monday’s edition of magazine Kicker that he will quit the Bavarian giants at the end of the season.

Bayern, who sit top of Group E on 13 points, need just a point at Amsterdam Arena on Wednesday to qualify for the last 16 as group winners.

With a two-point deficit to Bayern, a win for Ajax would see the Dutch giants finish top of the group.

As well as Robben, injured midfielders Corentin Tolisso and James Rodriguez have also been left off Niko Kovac’s matchday squad.

Robben To Leave Bayern At End Of Season

Robben To Leave Bayern At End Of Season
Bayern Munich’s Dutch midfielder Arjen Robben speaks during a press conference on April 10, 2018, in Munich, southern Germany. Christof STACHE / AFP


Arjen Robben reportedly confirmed on Sunday he will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season after a decade with the defending Bundesliga champions.

“This is my last year at Bayern. It has been 10 wonderful years,” Robben, who turns 35 in January, told a Bayern fan club meeting in Tegernsee, near Munich, according to Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.

“I think this is the right thing to do and to make it known now.

“There has been discussions about ‘the oldies’ at Bayern and all that stuff.

“I made the decision a few weeks ago and the fans now know where I stand.

“It’s a big step. It’s extraordinary that I can still play at this top level at my age.”

The fleet-footed veteran has, however, left his options open for next season, saying he is “waiting for offers”.

Robben has 143 goals and 101 assists in 305 games for Bayern since joining from Real Madrid in 2009.

He hit the winning goal in the 2013 Champions League final for the Bavarian giants and won the Bundesliga title seven times.

Both Robben and Franck Ribery, 35, are in the final years of their contracts at Bayern and president Uli Hoeness also confirmed Sunday that this is will most probably be the pair’s final year.

“Ribery and Robben are very likely to be in their last year at Bayern,” Hoeness stated, telling Bayern fans to expect transfer next season.

“There will be changes in some positions, we will be very aggressive with our transfer policy, our coffers are well filled.”

Despite his advancing years, Robben proved he is still deadly with the ball at his feet.

He scored the first two stunning goals in last Tuesday’s 5-1 thrashing of Benfica which confirmed Bayern’s place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Robben sat out Saturday’s 2-1 win at Werder Bremen which left defending champions Bayern third in the German league table before Sunday’s matches.


Bayern ‘Not Good Enough’ For Title Talk, Says Robben

Bayern Munich’s Dutch midfielder Arjen Robben speaks during a press conference on April 10, 2018 in Munich, southern Germany, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League second leg quarter-final football match between Munich and Sevilla. Christof STACHE / AFP


Arjen Robben insists that Bayern Munich are not good enough to retain their Bundesliga crown as the off-form champions prepare for the visit of strugglers Fortuna Duesseldorf on Saturday, with their title-winning streak under threat.

Bayern have won the last six German titles but they currently trail leaders Borussia Dortmund by seven points after losing three of their last six league games.

“We’re not in a position to talk about the title at the moment — we simply aren’t good enough,” veteran winger Robben, 34, told broadcaster ARD.

Their latest defeat came 3-2 at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park a fortnight ago, and left head coach Niko Kovac in a precarious spot.

Bayern’s outspoken chairman Uli Hoeness says he will back Kovac “to the end”, but patience could wear thin should Bayern drop lower than sixth and outside the European places.

However Hoeness says it is up to Bayern’s stars to get the club back in the title race, warning that “the players are under pressure for the next three of four months”.

“Then we will see who is needed and who isn’t,” he said.

Despite their poor run Bayern are heavy favourites to pick up three points against second-from-bottom Fortuna, whose midfielder Matthias Zimmerman joked about “parking the team bus” in their goal at the Allianz Arena.

“Everyone thinks we’re going to lose, but we have to be brave and approach the job with joy and fun. Perhaps we’ll manage a miracle,” said Zimmermann, whose team have leaked 15 goals in their last four games.

However Duesseldorf sparked cause for optimism after pulling off a surprise 4-1 win at home to Hertha Berlin last time out.

 Dortmund welcome Diallo 

Dortmund, the Bundesliga’s only team unbeaten, have a tricky away trip on Saturday to Mainz, who ended a seven-match winless streak by beating Bremen and Freiburg in their last two matches.

Dortmund’s defensive casualty list has eased, with Abdou Diallo available to face his former club after missing the last two games with a groin injury and playmaker Marco Reus recovering from a bruised foot.

The league leaders are targeting a more consistent display performance against Mainz after being well outplayed by Bayern in the first half before scoring three goals after the break.

“We’re taking it one game at a time,” said sports director Michael Zorc.

“Confidence is growing, but we had problems in the first half (against Bayern), we’re starting again at 0-0 and we have to be focused.”

Second-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach, who have won all five of their home league games this season, host third-from-bottom Hanover 96, who have not won any of their last 18 away league matches — dating back a year.

‘Gladbach are chasing their third straight win with Belgian winger Thorgan Hazard on fire.

The younger brother of Chelsea star Eden Hazard has scored 10 goals in 13 games for ‘Gladbach and netted twice for Belgium in their shock 5-2 capitulation to Switzerland on Sunday.

However, his contract expires in 2020 and Gladbach want him to sign an extension.

“Thorgan has been with us since 2014 and has improved consistently,” sports director Max Eberl told magazine Kicker.

“We’ll sit down in the spring and talk again.”

Fixtures (all times 1430 unless stated)


Bayer Leverkusen v VfB Stuttgart (1930)


Bayern Munich v Fortuna Duesseldorf, Hertha Berlin v Hoffenheim, Augsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz v Borussia Dortmund, VfL Wolfsburg v Leipzig, Schalke v Nuremberg (1730)


Freiburg v Werder Bremen, Borussia Moenchengladbach v Hanover 96 (1700)


Bayern Munich Flying But Leverkusen Crash Again

Bayern Munich’s Columbian midfielder James Rodriguez (R) celebrates his goal during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen in Munich, on September 15, 2018. Guenter SCHIFFMANN / AFP


Goals from Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez helped Bayern Munich maintain their grip on the top of the table as they beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 on Sunday, plunging their opponents into an early season crisis.

With three defeats in three, Leverkusen have made their worst ever start to a Bundesliga campaign.

Leverkusen got off to a dream start when Thiago’s handball gave them a penalty in the second minute.

Manuel Neuer initially denied Kevin Volland from 12 yards, but the spot-kick was ordered re-taken for players encroaching into the area and Wendell smashed in the retake.

Leverkusen’s joy was short-lived, as Corentin Tolisso prodded in the equaliser just four minutes later, and Robben fired Bayern ahead with a superb volley on 20 minutes.

“It wasn’t easy today, but luckily we bounced back quickly,” Robben told Sky. “I don’t want to criticise my team-mates, but everybody needs to pull their weight when we are pressing.”

Leverkusen’s fate seemed sealed when Karim Bellarabi was sent off for a reckless challenge on Rafinha ten minutes from time, and James Rodriguez added Bayern’s third in the 89th minute.

Champions League debut

Promoted Duesseldorf snatched a surprise 2-1 win over Hoffenheim, who make their Champions League debut next week.

Alfredo Morales headed Duesseldorf ahead against the run of play on the stroke of half-time. English youngster Reiss Nelson, on loan from Arsenal, appeared to save his team’s blushes when he scored on debut to make it 1-1.

The relief did not last long, though, as Dodi Lukebakio restored Duesseldorf’s lead from the penalty spot on 88 minutes.

Germany international Timo Werner scored twice to inspire RB Leipzig to their first win of the season in a 3-2 thriller against Hanover.

On his return to the starting eleven, Yussuf Poulsen nodded Leipzig ahead on ten minutes, before Niclas Fuellkrug blasted in an equaliser for Hanover a few minutes later.

Timo Werner twice linked up with Sweden striker Emil Forsberg on the counter-attack to put RB Leipzig 3-1 ahead, but the visitors were uncowed, and Miiko Albornoz quickly pulled a goal back with a curling shot into the top corner.

There was a flurry of late goals for Wolfsburg and Mainz, as Wolfsburg grabbed a late draw against Hertha Berlin and Mainz scored twice to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Augsburg.

After an uneventful first half, Javairo Dilrosun’s well-angled finish broke the deadlock just after the hour mark, before Yunnus Malli equalised from the penalty spot three minutes from time.

Ondrej Duda appeared to have won it for Hertha with a direct free-kick moments later, but Admir Mehmedi prodded in another equaliser to rescue a point for the home side.

“The fact that we twice came back from behind against such a defensively strong opponent says a lot about my team,” said Wolfsburg coach Bruno Labbadia.

After both sides had goals disallowed in the first half, the game was heading towards a goalless draw when Augsburg’s Dong-won Ji sent the ball flying into the bottom corner.

Mainz though, hit back with goals from Anthony Ujah and Alexandru Maxim turning the game on its head in the last six minutes.


Bayern Munich Must Be Fearless Against Real Madrid – Robben

FILE COPY Bayern Munich’s Dutch midfielder Arjen Robben celebrates during the German football Cup DFB Pokal semifinal match Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich in Leverkusen, western Germany. Photo Credit: Patrik STOLLARZ / AFP


Arjen Robben says Bayern Munich can ill afford to show Real Madrid any fear if they want to avoid a second-straight Champions League exit against the Spaniards.

Bayern host Real at Munich’s Allianz Arena in Wednesday’s blockbuster semi-final, first leg, in a repeat of last year’s quarter-final.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in each leg of the 2017 quarters after Bayern had failed to capitalise on their chances at home, as Real won 6-3 on aggregate.

“Last year we did not do well in the home game and played with a bit of fear,” said Robben.

“That should not happen on Wednesday.

“We’ll be ready. They can also be vulnerable and we can go into the game with our heads high.”

A year ago, Bayern lost the first-leg 2-1 in Munich, then went down 4-2 away.

In Munich, Arturo Vidal scored early for Bayern but then failed to convert a penalty with the Germans controlling the game and Real on the ropes.

However, the match turned as Ronaldo netted two second-half goals and Bayern had Javi Martinez sent off for a second booking.

Bayern went down fighting in the return, losing 4-2 away having played extra time with a man down after Vidal was sent off late on and Ronaldo wrapped up his hat-trick.

The Germans face a daunting task again.

Madrid have won their last five matches against Bayern, scoring 13 goals and conceding four in the process, and are bidding to win the Champions League for the third straight season.

It is easy to understand any nervousness in Bayern’s ranks facing superstar Ronaldo.

Real’s goal-machine has hit seven goals in his last three appearances against Bayern.

The Portugal superstar has scored 15 goals in the Champions League this season alone.

Real had no match this weekend, but Bundesliga champions Bayern warmed up with a 3-0 win at Hanover.

Thomas Mueller and Robert Lewandowski both came off the bench to score second-half goals.

Bayern fancy their chances against Real.

Lewandowski, their top-scorer who was injured for last season’s first leg against Real, has hit 39 goals, compared to Ronaldo’s 42, in all competitions in 2017/18.

Bayern have scored 14 times in their last three games — with Lewandowski and Mueller claiming four goals each.

“The chances (against Real Madrid) look good,” said Mueller.

“We’ve hit a purple patch and the game is coming at the right time.

“I’m sure we won’t be gifted anything, but there’s something in the air right now.”

Jupp Heynckes, who led Bayern to their 2013 treble, wants a place in the Champions League final on May 26 in Kiev before stepping down as head coach.

Just as he did in 2013, the 72-year-old could bow out with the treble.

Bayern have already secured a sixth straight Bundesliga title and are into the German Cup final on May 19.

“We have the big goal of moving into the final,” said Heynckes who will be replaced by Eintracht Frankfurt’s Niko Kovac next season.


Robben, Ribery Playing For New Bayern Deals

Robben, Ribery Playing For New Bayern Deals
File photo: Arjen Robben /Guenter Schiffmann / AFP


Veteran wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery are effectively playing for new contracts after Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted the club are in no rush to extend their deals.

Robben and Ribery, both 34, are out of contract at the end of the season and a primary round of extension negotiations has already begun.

They are part of a group of four players, alongside goalkeeper Sven Ulreich and defender Rafinha, whose contracts expire in June.

“We need some time, then we will make decisions,” Rummenigge told Sky.

“What is required of us is to create a gentle transition.

“We have already made a first (round of talks), when the second will follow, we will see.”

According to daily newspaper Bild, a decision will be made by the end of March at the earliest, leaving the quartet with just a few months to convince the German champions — currently 18 points clear in the Bundesliga — of their continued worth.

Between them, Robben and Ribery — part of the team that won the 2013 treble of Champions League, German Cup and Bundesliga — have made nearly 650 appearances for Bayern and scored exactly 250 goals.

However, both are injury prone, especially Ribery, who tore a knee ligament last October.

Yet, when fit, they continue to perform.

Robben scored two late goals in Tuesday’s 6-0 thrashing of minnows Paderborn in the quarter-finals of the German Cup.

Ribery netted a rare Bundesliga goal in Bayern’s 2-0 win at Mainz last Saturday.

Bayern will not want to leave themselves light on the flanks and Kingsley Coman is the only other winger in the squad, although Germany forward Thomas Mueller can play out wide.

Bayern host Schalke in a crunch Bundesliga match on Saturday and face Besiktas in the last 16 of the Champions League in a fortnight.


An All-Star Team Of 2018 World Cup Absentees

(L -R) Arjen Robben, Gianluigi Buffon,  Gareth Bale and Alexis Sanchez

With Arjen Robben, Alexis Sanchez, Gareth Bale, and Gianluigi Buffon as the stars, it is possible to build an impressive team from players who will miss the 2018 World Cup.

In some cases, the players simply have the bad luck to represent nations who are unlikely to reach the World Cup, at least until it expands to 48 teams in 2026. Others, notably the Italians, Chilean and Dutch, may find it hard to believe that they will be watching the finals from their sofas.

The stars who symbolise shattered expectations of nations which believed they had realistic hopes of qualifying, make up this first XI. Their supporting cast and the stars of lesser teams, who few expected to see in Russia, are on the bench.

Goalkeeper: Buffon (Italy)

A monument and a global yardstick in his position, Buffon has been a seemingly ageless pillar of the Italy team over 175 caps spread across 20 years.

He was in goal when Italy won the World Cup in a penalty shootout against France in 2006 and dreamed of pulling on his gloves for a sixth World Cup at the age of 39. But defeat to Sweden in the playoff on Monday means his international career is over.

“I am devastated, devastated, devastated. Not for myself but for all football, because we have failed,” he told Italian television in tears. “That is the only regret I have, certainly not the fact that I must stop playing.”

“Time passes and it is a tyrant,” said the Juventus goalkeeper, as dignified in defeat as in victory.

Defence: Aurier (Ivory Coast), Bonucci, Chiellini (Italy), Ghoulam (Algeria)

On either side of the back four are two men who symbolise the qualifying failures of their African nations. Serge Aurier of Tottenham Hotspur had a terrible final match as Ivory Coast lost 2-0 at home to Morocco who, as a result, qualified for Russia instead.

Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam was not the worst player in a disastrous final stage as Algeria, who reached the last 16 in 2014 in Brazil, failed to win a single game in their group, but he is one of the stars who should lead.

To compound the humiliation three other North African teams — Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco — are going to Russia.

The famed Juventus “BBC” back three was broken up in the summer as the junior member, Leonardo Bonucci, moved to Milan, but he was back alongside Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini against Sweden.

Those two, both well past 30, epitomise old-school Italian defensive discipline and toughness. Barzagli, 36, like Buffon and midfielder Daniele De Rossi, retired from international football after the defeat.

Midfield: Bale (Wales), Vidal (Chile), Pjanic (Bosnia)

Wales reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016, Chile lost on penalties to Brazil in the last 16 of the 2014 World Cup and then won back-to-back Copa America titles, while Bosnia, with a far shorter history, qualified for the first time when they reached the last World Cup. All three agonisingly missed out this time.

For Wales the journey ended with a 1-0 home loss to the Republic of Ireland in their final qualifier. Their injured Real Madrid star Bale could only watch as his country suffered their only defeat of the campaign. Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal was also absent for Chile at the key moment. He was suspended for the final group game away to Brazil. Chile lost 3-0 and dropped three places, surrendering a direct ticket to Russia and even missing out on a playoff place to Peru on goal difference.

Miralem Pjanic, of Juventus, was on the field as Bosnia, in a position to finish second in their group, blew a two-goal lead and lost in Cyprus in August, a result that opened the door for Greece.

Attackers: Robben (Netherlands), Aubameyang (Gabon), Sanchez (Chile)

The Netherlands may have missed Euro 2016 but Bayern’s Robben had helped them to two World Cup exploits: the final in 2010 and third place in 2014. He scored both goals as the Netherlands won their final group game 2-0 against Sweden but since the Dutch needed to win by seven to edge past the Swedes on goal difference, it was no more than a proud star fighting vainly to the end.

And time will beat Robben as it has Buffon. At 33 the “Flying Dutchman” has indicated he will retire from the national team.

Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the top scorer in the Bundesliga last season, was propelling his tiny nation towards a first ever World Cup, until they lost 3-0 in Morocco in a game that ultimately settled the group. The Borussia Dortmund striker found the loss hard to swallow. He blamed poisoned orange juice.

Arsenal’s Sanchez hit seven goals for Chile in qualifying, second only to Lionel Messi in the South American group. It was not enough and Sanchez, who has been persistently linked to Manchester City, will be able to spend the summer focussing on his future.

On the bench

Jan Oblak (Slovenia); Antonio Valencia (Ecuador), Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands), Stefan Savic (Montenegro), David Alaba (Austria); Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Armenia), Naby Keita (Guinea), Victor Wanyama (Kenya); Stevan Jovetic (Montenegro), Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast), Ciro Immobile (Italy)


Netherlands Need World Cup Miracle, Says Robben

Dutch forward Arjen Robben (C) attends a training of the Netherlands’ football team in Katwijk, on October 3, 2017. Bas Czerwinski / ANP / AFP

Unless the Netherlands can beat Sweden by a seven-goal margin on Tuesday the inventors of the beautiful game will be absent from the 2018 World Cup finals.

Having missed the cut for Euro 2016 the Netherlands sit third in Group A and can make the play-offs only with a high-scoring win over second-placed Sweden after a poor start to their campaign.

Coach Dick Advocaat, who took over from Danny Blind four games ago, is in no mood to concede defeat however.

“7-0 is possible,” he claimed.

“Sweden have just beaten Luxembourg 8-0 so why can’t we do the same to them,” he reasoned.

Veteran Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben takes a more realistic line.

“It’s over,” he said. “Mathematically it’s still possible of course, but we need a miracle.”

That miracle will have to be achieved without fading 33-year-old Wesley Sneijder, who has been a cornerstone of much of their past success but whose current form is deemed not good enough by Advocaat.

“Personally, I’d have liked him to be here,” said Robben, “but the decision is with the coach.”

Robben, Sneijder and Robin Van Persie led the way for the Netherlands in their celebrated orange shirts, romping to the 2010 final in South Africa only to be narrowly beaten by Spain.

At the Brazil World Cup under Luis Van Gaal in 2014 they ripped Spain apart and made a fine run to the semi-finals and another narrow defeat, this time by Lionel Messi’s Argentina, themselves now on the brink of disaster.

Whether or not the Dutch scrape into the play-offs, assistant coach Ruud Gullit has warned of a worrying trend that sees young Dutch players moving abroad, but then not playing first-team football.

“That’s the biggest problem that we have,” Gullitt told AFP ahead of the game. “We warned players, young players, to stay in Holland and play first-team football. Because then, later on when you’re good enough, you will get to places anyway.”

Sweden can still win the group should France lose to Belarus and they themselves beat the Dutch.


‘Money Doesn’t Score Goals’, Robben Mocks PSG

Robben /Guenter Schiffmann / AFP

Arjen Robben has poked fun at big-spending Paris Saint-Germain on the eve of Bayern Munich’s key Champions League away match in the French capital.

With Anderlecht and Celtic also in the pool, the PSG-Bayern clash at Paris’ Parc de Princes on Wednesday could well decide the winner of Group B.

“Paris have certainly given out a few more euros than us, but money doesn’t score goals, quality on the pitch scores goals, good teams score goals,” said veteran winger Robben before the team jetted to Paris.

PSG signed Neymar from Barcelona for a world record 222 million euros ($264m) and recruited Kylian Mbappe from Monaco last month on an initial loan deal which is set to be made into a permanent move for 180 million euros next year.

But when asked about PSG’s star-studded MCN attack – Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar – Robben was unphased: “The important thing is the performance of the team, not just to focus on particular players”.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is convinced Bayern can get a good result in the French capital.

“I know our team, they are highly motivated and concentrated for games like this,” said the former striker.

“I am convinced we can get something out of this game.”

Nevertheless, the biggest test for Bayern’s shaky defence — which threw away a two-goal lead at home to struggling Wolfsburg in a 2-2 draw last Friday — will be to contain ‘MCN’.

“Of course, that is an attack with world-class players, we have to control that, but we have more experience,” countered Rummenigge.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness launched a thinly-veiled attack on PSG’s spending policy in an interview on Monday, but Rummenigge focused on the football.

“This is a prestige game, but one thing is clear: the Champions League is not decided, we want to create the conditions to become group-winners.”