Van der Vaart returns to back Netherlands at World Cup qualifiers

Reuters, Tuesday 9 Oct 2012

The Hamburg Playmaker missed the opening two Group D qualifiers against Turkey and Hungary due to fitness concerns

Netherlands' midfielder Rafael van der Vaart (Photo: AFP)

Playmaker Rafael van der Vaart feels he is back where he belongs after being recalled by Netherlands for the World Cup qualifying matches against Andorra and Romania.

The 29-year-old rejoined Hamburg SV from Tottenham Hotspur in August but was left out by national coach Louis van Gaal for the opening two Group D qualifiers against Turkey and Hungary because he was short of match fitness.

"I belong in this team, that is obvious for me, and I don't feel old," Van der Vaart told reporters at the Dutch training camp as they prepared for Friday's game against Andorra in Rotterdam and the match in Romania four days later.

"Van Gaal gives you the chance to fight back when you are fit and ... I am glad the door is open again because if I had been left out again I would have had a problem," added the midfielder who won his 100th cap in a friendly against Belgium in August.

Without Van der Vaart the Dutch won their first two fixtures to stretch their winning streak in World Cup qualifiers to 10 games. Overall, they are unbeaten in 22 matches.

The Hamburg player looks set to come into the side in place of fellow former Ajax Amsterdam youth team product Wesley Sneijder who is out with a thigh strain.

Van Gaal started his second spell in charge with a 4-2 away defeat against neighbours Belgium but they have got back on track in the World Cup with Sneijder running the midfield along with Kevin Strootman and Jordy Clasie.

The Dutch have also recalled midfielders Ibrahim Afellay and Nigel de Jong for the fixtures with Andorra and Romania but the biggest surprise was the inclusion in the squad of the Brazilian-born Douglas.

The defender, who became a Dutch citizen in November, was called up for the first time after Joris Mathijsen pulled out with a hamstring injury.

"This is very special for me," said the 24-year-old Douglas. "It feels like I have a chance to claim a spot in the squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"I have spoken briefly with the coach and he told me I just have to continue what I've been doing with Twente Enschede and keep trying to improve."

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports)

Short link: