Dutch forward Arjen Robben is at the height of his game and would be a nightmare for any team at the World Cup, Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said on Thursday ahead of his side’s quarter-final against the Netherlands.
“He’s a model winger for anyone who wants to learn how to play soccer,” Pinto told Reuters at Costa Rica’s training camp. “He’s at the peak of his career, he’s a nightmare for any team.”
The 30-year-old has been one of the players of the tournament in Brazil, scoring three goals and terrorising defences with his quick, weaving runs and close control.
He was instrumental in the Netherlands’ last-gasp win against Mexico in the last round, helping them back from the brink of elimination by winning a controversial stoppage-time penalty, converted by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
“Of course the Dutch team helps him, but if you see the way he attacks and the goals he’s scored you can say without any doubt that he’s one of the three or four players in the World Cup,” Pinto said.
The Dutch were trailing 1-0 to Mexico before their two late goals. Pinto said he felt the Mexicans had retreated too early in the match and tried to hold on to their one-goal lead.
“I feel that Mexico sat back a lot,” he said. “Chile were more aggressive (in their 2-0 first round loss to the Netherlands) but they left a lot of space, and the Dutch when they have space are very dangerous.”
Costa Rica have confounded all expectations to reach this stage of the competition and stand on the brink of the first World Cup semi-final in their history.
They beat Italy and Uruguay en route to the last eight and have been rock solid in defence.
They conceded one goal from a penalty against Uruguay and kept clean sheets against Italy and England before beating the Greeks in a penalty shootout after their match finished 1-1.
“The Netherlands will be a great test to see if we really do have the best defence at the World Cup,” Pinto said. “I think we can say that at the moment given that in four matches we’ve conceded just one goal in open play and one penalty.”
Pinto’s Costa Ricans face the Netherlands in Salvador on Saturday. The winners will face either Argentina or Belgium next Wednesday for a place in the World Cup final.