FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — Arjen Robben did little to defuse the debate about his reputation for diving.
The Netherlands winger earned an injury-time penalty Sunday and then watched as teammate Klaas Jan Huntelaar converted from the spot to give the Dutch a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Mexico in the second round of the World Cup.
Robben collapsed theatrically under a challenge from Rafael Marquez, causing emotional Mexico coach Miguel Herrera to blame his team’s loss on referee Pedro Proenca.
“We ended up losing because he whistled a penalty that did not exist,” he said, adding that Robben “dived three times. The referee should have cautioned him.”
Throughout his career, Robben has had a reputation for frequently falling and looking for a penalty or free kick.
But the 30-year-old Bayern Munich star appears to have matured. In recent seasons, it has been his scintillating form rather than theatrical falls that have grabbed headlines.
He set up a goal and scored the winner in Bayern Munich’s 2013 Champions League final win and has been in the form of his life in Brazil, scoring three times and providing an inch-perfect assist for a Memphis Depay goal in the three Dutch victories in Group B.
In Fortaleza’s Arena Castelao he appeared to be unlucky not to have won a penalty shortly before half time, when Mexico defenders Marquez and Hector Moreno raced back to tackle him after he linked up with Robin van Persie in a fast break.
“If that wasn’t a penalty, I don’t know what is,” Robben said.
But he conceded that he had taken one dive earlier in the first half that the referee waved off.
“I have to say, in the first half — and right away offer my excuses — I dived. I mustn’t do that. It was another stupid action,” he told Dutch broadcaster NOS.
Mexico captain Marquez told reporters that Robben conceded he had dived in injury time too — though Robben did not say that on Dutch TV.
“I spoke with him (Robben) after the match and he told me that it was not a penalty,” Marquez said. “He said that the first foul was a penalty and that one was not called.”
Whatever the debate, one thing is clear — the Netherlands is through to the quarterfinals thanks to the penalty Robben won.
Associated Press writer Carlos Rodriguez contributed to this story.
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