Arjen Robben was the hero for the Netherlands, leading the Dutch to a 2-1 win over Slovakia in a Round of 16 match at the 2010 FIFA World Cup Monday in Durban, South Africa.
Recently troubled by a nagging hamstring injury, Robben inspired the Dutch to victory with his creative play, sending his country through to the quarter-finals.
The mighty Oranje march merrily along in South Africa, beating all before them with equal parts attacking invention and staunch defending.
Robben was the star Monday, making his tournament debut as a starter in the Dutch line-up after missing the first two games through injury and reduced to a substitute role in the Group E finale.
The Bayern Munich winger injured his left hamstring on June 5 in the Netherlands' final warm-up match against Hungary in Amsterdam. At the time, there was legitimate concern that Robben, 26, would not be available for duty, thus possibly depriving the Dutch of their most influential talent.
Lucky for them that they managed just fine without Robben in the group stage and that he has recovered in time to play a starring role in the knockout stage. With Robben healthy again and competing at full strength, the Netherlands must now be considered one of the legitimate tournament favourites going forward.
But trouble lies ahead.
For all of his brilliance on the ball, and for all of his ability to conjure up a bit of magic at a moment's notice, the undeniable fact is that Robben is also a conman who is constantly looking to pull a fast one.
We saw Robben's trademark Beauty and the Beast routine again on Monday: burning the Slovak defence with his sublime touch and blinding speed, but also winning few friends with his propensity for tumbling to the ground under the slightest of challenges and then whining to the ref in an attempt to get his opponent booked.
Robben takes play-acting to shameful new heights, and he must be careful because his despicable displays overshadow his natural talent as one of the game's most creative and inventive players.
His antics also leave him susceptible to being force fed a mouthful of outlaw justice somewhere down the line.
Thus far in South Africa he's got away with his tumbling act. But the time will come that some big bruising defender is going to lay into him hard, delivering a reckless tackle than will bring the Dutchman crashing to the field in genuine pain.
At that point, Robben will no doubt cry wolf again, but will anybody be listening?
What this result means
The Netherlands advances to the quarter-finals, where it will meet Brazil. Slovakia has been eliminated.
The winning goal
Sitting on a one-goal lead, the Dutch doubled their advantage with six minutes left in regulation. Dirk Kuyt beat Slovakian goalkeeper Jan Mucha to the ball inside the box, and slid it into the path of Wesley Sneijder, who powered it home from eight yards out. Robert Vittek scored for Slovakia from the penalty spot in injury time, but it was too little and much too late.
Goal of the match
The Dutch played a long ball forward out from defence and Robben used his speed down the right flank to run onto the end of it. Pressing forward, the Bayern Munich winger quickly cut inside and eluded three Slovakian defenders before firing from 20 yards out and beating Mucha at the near-post in the 18th minute.
Man of the match
Robben scored the first goal and caused plenty of problems for the Slovakian defence with his blinding runs down the wing.
The Dutch perspective
"We played a difficult match. Main thing is, we are through. Probably the perfect game has still to come." — winger Arjen Robben
The Slovakian perspective
"We played with heart and courage and we are proud that we made it to the second round, but the better team advanced. The penalty made us feel a little better on the flight home." — coach Vladimir Weiss