Robin van Persie — After a season blighted by an ankle injury that kept him out of action from November to mid-April, the Arsenal striker goes into the 2010 FIFA World Cup hungry to make his mark. The forward likened by club manager Arsene Wenger to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo contested less than a month at the end of the season, but he travels to South Africa fresh and, above all, more motivated than ever to impress. On target against Cote divoire during the group stage at Germany 2006, he was bitterly disappointed by the Netherlands’ Round of 16 exit at the hands of Portugal.
The erstwhile Feyenoord prodigy is anxious to bolster his collection of honours too. Since winning the UEFA Cup with the Rotterdam outfit in 2002, the son of artist parents has just a 2005 FA Cup winner’s medal to show for his efforts, having spent the last five years in a vain hunt for the titles to go with his immense talent.
Capped at Under-19 and U-21 level, he was named Young Player of the Year in the Eredivisie for 2001/02, despite ending the campaign without a goal to his name. He struck 14 over the next two seasons but fell out with his coach – namely Bert van Marwijk, now his boss at international level – and that prompted a move to Arsenal in the summer of 2004, with Wenger eyeing the newcomer as the next Dennis Bergkamp. The Rotterdam native was handed extra responsibility in the wake of Thierry Henry’s departure, but a string of injuries held him back and it took him until 2008/09 to truly repay his manager’s faith, weighing in with 11 Premier League strikes and a further five in the UEFA Champions League.
Again sidelined by injury in November 2009, during a superb spell of form, Van Persie intends to make up for lost time on South African soil.
Van Persie was included in the preliminary squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. On 27 May 2010, Netherlands manager Bert van Marwijk announced that he would be part of the final squad of 23 participating in the competition. Van Persie was in the starting line-up for their first match in the competition, a 2–0 victory over Denmark. On 24 June 2010, he scored the first goal against Cameroon in a 2-1 to ensure that Holland finished as group winners.