First the World Cup final, now the Champions League showpiece – Arjen Robben proves that he is a big-game choker

The Bayern Munich winger should have fired the Bavarians to CL glory on Saturday, but failed when it mattered most, and not for the first time in his career
By Stefan Coerts

Very few will disagree with the notion that Arjen Robben has been one of the world's best attackers over the past half-decade. The Dutchman has won league titles with PSV, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, while lifting several more trophies at club level.

Additionally, the former Groningen star has been capped 54 times by the Netherlands, and at the age of 28 has already featured at two European Championships and two World Cups.

However, the fleet-footed winger has not enjoyed much luck on the biggest stage. Robben has lost the last four finals he has played in: Inter proved too strong for Bayern in the 2010 Champions League final, Spain beat Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup, Borussia Dortmund defeated FCB in this year's DFB Pokal final, and Chelsea emerged victorious in this season's final of European club football's elite tournament.

The Oranje international has, unfortunately, played a key role in a number of these big-game failures, and the outcome could often have been very different had Robben been more decisive at the critical moments. This has led to the ex-Real Madrid star being labelled by some as a big-game choker.

The moment that will forever haunt him is the one-on-one with Iker Casillas at 0-0 in the final of the 2010 World Cup. However, the missed spot kicks in the Bundesliga title-decider against Borussia Dortmund earlier this term and in the Champions League final versus Chelsea on Saturday didn't do his reputation any good either.

Below are some of Robben's big-game chokes ...


After Chelsea had won the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie with Liverpool 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, they were unable to successfully defend their lead in the return. A single Daniel Agger goal restored parity after 22 minutes of play, and the game would eventually go to penalties as both sides failed to find the net in the remainder of the game.

Robben, who came off the bench in the 98th minute to replace Joe Cole, stepped up to take one of Chelsea's five spot kicks. His attempt from 12 yards was kept out by Pepe Reina, thus ending the Blues' Champions League dreams as Geremi failed to find the net as well.


Robben faced fitness problems ahead of the 2010 World Cup, and missed the first two group games due to a hamstring injury. Nevertheless, he returned to match action for Netherlands' third fixture, and played a key role in the knockout wins over Slovakia and Uruguay to help Holland to the final against Spain.

The Bedum-born attacker was then decisive in the showpiece too, but not in the way he'd have imagined ahead of the game. Robben was sent clean through on goal in the second half after a brilliant Wesley Sneijder pass, but the winger couldn't find a way past Iker Casillas, and Spain eventually emerged victorious, following Andres Iniesta's goal in extra time.


Ahead of the Bundesliga game at Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich still had every chance to win the domestic league title. They could not afford to lose, though, and things were not looking good for FCB as they trailed 1-0 with only five minutes remaining.

However, the referee's decision to award Bayern a spot kick after Roman Weidenfeller fouled Robben seemed to have helped the Bavarians back into the title race. The Dutchman confidently stepped up, but saw his attempt parried by Weidenfeller as he missed his first-ever penalty for the German giants.

Robben received the chance to make amends only minutes later, but the winger once more choked at a crucial moment as he fired the ball over an open goal from close range to effectively end Bayern's title ambitions.


After missing out on the Bundesliga title and the DFB Pokal, Bayern were desperate to win the Champions League final versus Chelsea in order to save their 2011-12 campaign. Things were not meant to be for the Bavarians, though.

After Thomas Muller broke the deadlock with just seven minutes left, Didier Drogba's powerful header sent the game into extra-time. The Ivorian then went from hero to villain minutes later when he fouled Franck Ribery inside the area, leaving the referee no other choice but to award Bayern a penalty, and Robben the chance to restore his side's lead.

However, the Netherlands star buckled under the pressure, and his low shot was saved by Petr Cech, much to the frustration of the winger.

"Indescribable. I don't know what to say. I'm really lost for words. I never had any doubts when I stepped up for the penalty. I just wanted to hit it hard through the middle, but it didn't go as high as I wanted it to go," Robben commented.

The attacker's miss allowed Chelsea to hang on for a penalty shoot-out. Robben refused to take one of Bayern's five kicks, and watched on in agony as the Londoners won 4-3 in the lottery. Bayern had blown their dream of winning the Champions League on home soil, and Robben had proven yet again that when the big occasion comes around he often fails to produce the goods.

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