Netherlands can win the World Cup, insists Robben

The winger believes his side will be realistic contenders next summer and has warned of the danger posed by Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa ahead of the friendly with Japan

Arjen Robben insists the Netherlands have the ability to win the 2014 World Cup and will be going to Brazil next summer determined to lift the trophy.

The Oranje were runners-up in the 2010 tournament after Andres Iniesta’s goal won the final for Spain in South Africa, but Bayern Munich ace Robben is fully confident his side can go one better this time around.

“Our final goal is to become world champions in Brazil,” the 29-year-old told reporters.

“It’s a realistic target and we won’t go there with the attitude to just see how far we can get.

“We must survive the group stage and if we progress, the world title is our dream.”

Louis van Gaal’s side find themselves in a rich vein of form after going unbeaten for 15 games stretching back over a year, but Robben has warned their run will be put to the test in upcoming friendlies against Colombia and Japan.

“These matches are not about getting points, but they’re important,” he stressed.

“These are two countries you can end up playing against in Brazil.  Most people talk about Colombia, because they’re that high on the Fifa ranking, but maybe Japan is even an more difficult opponent.

“I know a lot of players from the Bundesliga. Besides that, [Keisuke] Honda and [Shinji] Kagawa are very good players.”

Robin van Persie’s withdrawal from the squad means Robben is set to start the friendlies in Genk and Amsterdam as captain, and the former Chelsea winger admits he will be proud to take on the armband.

“It’s an honour to be captain of your country,” he added. “It’s the most beautiful thing.

“I don’t feel extra pressure, maybe a bit of positive pressure. I know what people are expecting from me.  I won’t change because of the captaincy. I will stay myself.”

Lehmann: Premier League has weakened

The ex-Arsenal stopper believes the top division in English football has declined in comparison to the Bundesliga, with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund now leading Europe

Jens Lehmann believes the Premier League is not as strong as it once was.

Lehmann enjoyed a five-year stint at Arsenal between 2003 and 2008 before coming out of retirement to return briefly in 2011 via a spell at Stuttgart.

But the the former Germany international feels that Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have closed the gap at the top of European football, in stark contrast to the leading English sides.

“I think the duel at the top is pretty balanced, because Bayern and Dortmund have caught up a lot over the last years,” he told reporters.

“And I think the English League isn’t as good anymore at the top or as strong as it used to be.”

Dortmund and Bayern meet in the Bundesliga directly after the international break and the 44-year-old has predicted that the game will finish in a draw, as his former club Dortmund will be eager to avoid a third straight defeat.

“Last year Arsenal has won in Munich 2-0 and lost at home 3-1,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for that [away goals] rule, maybe it wouldn’t have gone into overtime. Dortmund has won once and lost once [against Arsenal].

“The chances of Borussia Dortmund losing three times in a row are pretty small, therefore I believe that it least it will be a draw.”

Former Arsenal goalkeeper Lehmann: Premier League has weakened

The ex-Arsenal stopper believes the top division in English football has declined in comparison to the Bundesliga, with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund now leading Europe

Jens Lehmann believes the Premier League is not as strong as it once was.

Lehmann enjoyed a five-year stint at Arsenal between 2003 and 2008 before coming out of retirement to return briefly in 2011 via a spell at Stuttgart.

But the the former Germany international feels that Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have closed the gap at the top of European football, in stark contrast to the leading English sides.

“I think the duel at the top is pretty balanced, because Bayern and Dortmund have caught up a lot over the last years,” he told reporters.

“And I think the English League isn’t as good anymore at the top or as strong as it used to be.”

Dortmund and Bayern meet in the Bundesliga directly after the international break and the 44-year-old has predicted that the game will finish in a draw, as his former club Dortmund will be eager to avoid a third straight defeat.

“Last year Arsenal has won in Munich 2-0 and lost at home 3-1,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for that [away goals] rule, maybe it wouldn’t have gone into overtime. Dortmund has won once and lost once [against Arsenal].

“The chances of Borussia Dortmund losing three times in a row are pretty small, therefore I believe that it least it will be a draw.”

Ribery: Zidane wanted me at Madrid

The France international has admitted that his compatriot very nearly convinced him to move to the Santiago Bernabeu but insisted that he is now settled at Bayern Munich

Franck Ribery has revealed that Zinedine Zidane did his utmost to try to persuade him to sign for Real Madrid.

The Bayern Munich winger claims that both los Blancos and Liga rivals Barcelona previously expressed an interest in taking him to Spain.

Ribery freely admits that he was particularly tempted by the prospect of following in Zidane’s footsteps and making the move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

“Barcelona and Madrid are very big teams and there was a moment when both teams were interested in me,” the 30-year-old France international told beIN Sport.

“I liked both but I had a moment in which I felt closer to Madrid than Barcelona. Zidane wanted me to go to Madrid and he tried all he could.

“But I am not interested now because Bayern is my family.”

Ribery, of course, played a key role in the German side’s historic treble triumph last season and is, therefore, considered by many as the frontrunner for this year’s Ballon d’Or award.

The former Olympique de Marseille attacker will face stiff competition from Madrid ace Cristiano Ronald and Barcelona star Lionel Messi but Ribery fancies his chances of walking away with the prestigious accolade.

“I feel good about it,” he confessed. “It is getting closer and closer. This has been one of my best years. I was lucky enough to win everything.”

Bayern: Schweinsteiger will be fit for 2014

Recent media reports have suggested that the Germany midfielder could face a prolonged absence but the club’s doctors say those rumours are wide of the mark

Bayern Munich have allayed fears over Bastian Schweinsteiger’s long-term fitness after the midfielder was booked in for ankle surgery.

The Germany international underwent an operation on his right ankle in June, but the problem has flared up again and will keep Schweinsteiger out until the new year.

Media reports over the weekend poured doubts over Schweinsteiger’s ability to return from his latest setback, having suffered four similar issues in the past year.

However, the club insist the 29-year-old will be back in peak fitness when he returns after the German mid-season break.

Chief medical officer Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt told Bayern’s official website: “Unfortunately there has been a large-scale media debate since last weekend regarding Bastian Schweinsteiger’s state of health, conducted in a manner which is inappropriate and untenable with respect to the player.

“Opinions are being expressed by colleagues who have no access whatsoever to specialist information, including diagnoses and visual material.

“The injury concerns an extra-articular condition (situated away from the joint).

“The ankle joint itself is not affected. The post-operative prognosis may be regarded as very favourable.

“Bastian Schweinsteiger’s fitness for the year 2014 is not endangered in any respect.”

Schweinsteiger was a key figure in Bayern’s treble-winning side last term and had made 17 appearances under Pep Guardiola before his latest lay-off was confirmed.