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How Arjen Robben transformed into a man for the big occasion

May 25, 2013: The final whistle was poised. Franck Ribery plucked Jerome Boateng’s floated ball from out of the air. Arjen Robben roared forward mercilessly, elegantly dancing his way past a desperate lunging challenge from Mats Hummels. Neven Subotic was reduced to his knees, and as the beating of the drums inside Wembley ceased for a split second, Robben masterfully rolled an unerring finish past a hapless Roman Weidenfeller.

The home of English football had been invaded by thousands of fanatical Germans and Robben absorbed every single emotion, pumping his arms profusely as he charged towards a sea of Bayern Munich supporters to embrace them in his finest hour. It was perfectly fitting that Robben involved his adoring audience in the crowning moment of an emotional journey.

Just over a year on from his costly penalty miss in the Champions League final against Chelsea in Munich, Robben had propelled Bayern to an unprecedented continental treble in the English capital.

Falling at the final hurdle had become an all too familiar theme for the Dutchman. Defeat at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan denied the Bavarians an historic treble in 2010 and Robben would taste defeat in another major final in Johannesburg just 53 days later.

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Bert van Marwijk had masterminded the Netherlands route to their first FIFA World Cup final since 1978. Robben had scored what proved to be the winner in an enthralling five-goal thriller against Uruguay in the semi-final, but the silky Spanish stood in their way of winning the competition for the first time.

Holland flew out of the traps with Iker Casillas masterfully foiling Robben from close-range twice during the opening exchanges. The spectacle descended into a horror show that threatened to get out of hand with referee Howard Webb brandishing a record 14 yellow cards.

Andreas Iniesta emerged as the hero at the death, scoring in extra-time to consign Robben to yet another loss. Defeat against Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League final was compounded by a debilitating 5-2 drubbing at the hands of Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal final, but Robben came back stronger than ever.

Bayern consolidated their first Bundesliga title in three years by condemning Spanish heavyweights FC Barcelona to a jaw-dropping 7-0 aggregate defeat to set-up the first all-German European final.

Two years of heartache evaporated in a single moment as Robben reached the peak of his powers. Thereafter, Bayern escaped a late fightback from VfB Stuttgart to prevail 3-2 at the Olympiastadion and seal an unprecedented treble in the DFB-Pokal final

Adversity shapes the destiny of true greats and he overcame seemingly unsurmountable obstacles to place himself among the best in world football at the end of a season of sweet redemption.


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