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Dirty Tackle

Who is the World Cup's fastest player?

Dirty Tackle
Netherlands player Arjen Robben gestures prior to the international friendly soccer match between the Netherlands and Wales at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday June 4, 2014
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Netherlands player Arjen Robben gestures prior to the international friendly soccer match between the Netherlands and Wales at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday June 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Ermindo Armino)

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One of the highlights of the Netherlands' 5-1 thrashing of defending world champion Spain in last week’s Group B opener was seeing Dutch forward Arjen Robben blow past Spanish defender Sergio Ramos on his way to scoring Holland’s fourth goal.

At the time, it was easy to assume Ramos, a top-tier defender who plies his trade for Real Madrid, must simply have been left behind because of fatigue. It’s since been revealed it was Robben’s blistering pace that left Ramos in the dust, rather than exhaustion on the part of the defender.

Initial reports said Robben had been clocked at an astonishing 23 mph, a speed that would make him the fastest soccer player in the history of the game.

[Photos: Custom cleats of World Cup stars]

However FIFA’s official data on the Spain vs. Netherlands match indicates those initial reports may have been faulty. According to the official FIFA stat sheet for the match, the Flying Dutchman’s top speed had been "only" 19.3 mph.

That’s still incredibly fast, and also a personal best for Robben, whose previous top speed was clocked at 19.1 miles per hour.

Check out how Robben's world-class speed ranks compared to some of the world's top athletes in other sports:

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Sports speedsters Yahoo Sports infographic.

Sports speedsters Yahoo Sports infographic.

So contrary to some reports, Arjen Robben is not the fastest soccer player in the world.

That distinction still belongs to Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia, who while playing for Manchester United in the English Premier League, made a run that was clocked at 22 mph.

Robben is still among the fastest players in this summer’s World Cup, although not the fastest.

According to FIFA data, Brazilian Ramirez was also clocked at 19.3 mph in Brazil’s World Cup opener against Croatia.

[Related: Netherlands advance after 3-2 win over Australia]

Chilean Alexis Sanchez also made a 19.3 mph run in Chile’s opener against Australia.

Faster still was U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones, who was clocked at 19.5 mph in the USA’s hard-fought opener against Ghana.

But with almost a week’s worth of the 2014 World Cup having been played, so far no one has been as fast as France’s Raphael Varane. The 21-year-old central defender was clocked at an astounding 20.07 mph in Les Bleus’ opening fixture against Honduras.

For some perspective, Usain Bolt has a top speed of 27.44 mph.

With two more rounds of group-stage play followed by the round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, third-place playoff and the World Cup final yet to be played, the title of fastest player in the World Cup is likely still to be decided.

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