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Arjen Robben did little to defuse the debate about his reputation for diving after an injury time penalty was awarded in Netherlands' second round World Cup match against Mexico early today.
The Netherlands winger earned the penalty and then watched as teammate Klaas Jan Huntelaar converted from the spot to give the Dutch a come-from-behind 2-1 victory.
The penalty was earned when Robben collapsed theatrically under a challenge from captain 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".
Mexico fans reacted similarly, venting their rage online.
''He cheated, it's sickening,'' said one Mexican fan amid a storm of reaction on Twitter.
''The type of embellishment employed by Robben is exactly what drives Americans crazy,'' added a sympathetic US football-lover.
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 appeared 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.''
The stoppage time penalty from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar gave the Netherlands the dramatic 2-1 victory over Mexico.
It came just minutes after the Mexicans had seemed certain to reach the quarter-finals. With two minutes to play, Mexico were leading 1-0, but Wesley Sneijder pulled the Dutch level with a fierce drive, seemingly forcing the match into extra time.
Then, in stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes, Robben drew the penalty and Huntelaar converted the spot kick to take the Dutch through.
They would play either Greece or Costa Rica in Salvador next Sunday and would fancy their chances of making the last four.
It was a cruel ending for Mexico, who dominated much of the match and took the lead just after the break through forward Giovani Dos Santos.
He chested the ball down 30 metres from goal before firing a low left-foot shot into the bottom corner of the net.
The Dutch almost equalised 10 minutes later when their big centre back Stefan De Vrij forced a brilliant reflex save from Guillermo Ochoa.
The keeper parried the effort on to his left hand post and his defenders cleared it to safety.
The Dutch victory followed their swashbuckling performances in the group stage as their quest for a first World Cup title went on.
For the Mexicans, defeat meant more second-round heartache.They have now reached the last 16 at six consecutive World Cups and have lost every time.
Robben began this World Cup in scintillating style with two goals against reigning champions Spain in a 5-1 drubbing that shook the supposed footballing order of Europe.
He also scored against Australia, putting him on three goals so far and no doubt aspiring to overtake current top scorer James Rodriguez of Colombia as the tournament progresses.
Saturday's quarter-final would be another great chance for Robben to shine.
It has all been the perfect way for him to banish the haunting memory of the final four years ago, when he missed a one-on-one chance against Spanish keeper Iker Casillas that could well have given the Dutch their first ever World Cup.
The image of a disbelieving Robben, hands on head, remains one of the lingering memories of the 2010 World Cup.
He arrived in Brazil, however, at the height of his powers, with a string of injuries behind him and a confidence-boosting season as a key member of a great Bayern Munich side.
Robben's move to Germany in 2009 helped dispel much of the criticism that dogged his early career in England and Spain.
Despite winning league titles with both Chelsea and Real Madrid, he had never really lived up to his billing as one of the most exciting attacking players in the world.
His characteristic ploy of cutting in from the right to fire a powerful shot off his left foot often ended in derision from fans when the ball flew over or wide.
But the move to Bayern and the appointment of former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola in 2013 have seen him improve immensely and with a fit Robben pulling the strings, Bayern's dominance has not been limited to the domestic scene.
Having missed a penalty in the 2012 Champions League final against Chelsea, Robben redeemed himself in 2013, scoring a last-gasp winner against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley to claim Europe's most prestigious club prize.
Now Robben was gunning for the ultimate world prize, one that has eluded his nation to earn the Dutch an unwanted reputation as the best team never to win a World Cup.
For Mexico coach Miguel Herrera, however, Robben's tournament should be all but ended.
''If the referee was fair, their second goal wouldn't exist,'' a furious Herrera said, accusing Robben of diving three times.
''Because Arjen Robben would have been sent off for a second yellow card. But if you don't book him after the first one, then the player knows he can get away with it.''
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