Robben signs off in style

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Netherlands’ forward Arjen Robben acknowledges the fans following their FIFA World Cup qualification match against Sweden at the Amsterdam Arena in Amsterdam Tuesday. — AFP

AMSTERDAM — Netherlands captain Arjen Robben signaled the end of his international career Tuesday after his country failed to reach the 2018 World Cup finals despite a 2-0 win over Sweden.

The Bayern Munich star signed off by scoring both goals in Amsterdam as the Dutch fell well short of the unlikely 7-0 win they needed to make the play-offs after a desperately disappointing qualifying campaign.

The 33-year-old Robben scored 37 times in 96 appearances for the Netherlands and helped it reach the 2010 World Cup final where they lost 1-0 to Spain after extra-time.

“Fourteen years, it’s beautiful, magnificent even,” said Robben, who made his international debut against Portugal in April 2003.

“I will always remember the 2010 World Cup and 2014. Those are my best memories. During those two competitions we formed a real team.”

The Netherlands needed to win by a seven-goal margin to reach the playoffs but finished level on 19 points, behind Group A winner France, with the Swedes second on goal difference.

After the final whistle, the Swedish players went to their changing room to celebrate, leaving the stage free for Bayern Munich forward Robben to say farewell to the Dutch fans.

“We knew we didn’t have a chance but it was an amazing game. It hasn’t been an easy decision but I am 33 and now must give my full focus to my club,” said Robben.

Missing out on the World Cup caps a remarkable demise for the Netherlands, whih was runner-up to Spain at the 2010 tournament in South Africa, and third in Brazil in 2014, with Robben again in the side, in a semifinal defeat by Argentina.

It has now missed out on a second major tournament after also failing in its bid to qualify for last year’s European Championship in France.

Vidal retires

Arturo Vidal says he is retiring from international football with his “soul crushed” after Chile failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup Finals.

Vidal missed Chile’s final shot at qualification Tuesday through suspension, the South American champions losing 3-0 to Brazil to miss out on the tournament in Russia next year on goal difference.

Vidal, 30, announced his intention to step down from the national team on Twitter.

“Thank you lads, for everything, for all these years together... for teaching me and for showing a country that with effort and work anything is possible in life,” the Bayern Munich midfielder wrote in Spanish.

He said his “soul was crushed” but at the same time spoke of his “pride at players and staff”.

Vidal with Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal was part of the golden generation of Chile players that claimed the Copa America in 2015 and 2016.

Chile, which was beaten by Brazil in the round of 16 at both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, was soundly beaten again by Brazil in Sao Paulo Tuesday.

The Chileans finished level on points with Peru, who secured a two-legged playoff against New Zealand, but trailed on goal difference to be placed out of the running in sixth in the final South American qualifying table.

Chile’s Argentinean manager Juan Antonio Pizzi also announced his retirement from the team after Tuesday’s disappointment. — Agencies


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