Football

Holland waiting for Robben

Holland coach Blind to have star winger back only for Luxembourg game 
and not Belgium friendly

FRIENDLY

HOLLAND v BELGIUM
(Tomorrow, 3.45am)

Holland coach Danny Blind wants his side to beat Belgium for the first time in nearly 20 years, but they will have to do so without their star Arjen Robben.

The Bayern Munich winger trained with the German giants for the last two days, with the blessing of Blind.

In an agreement between club and country, the injury-prone star will sit out of the Belgium friendly tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

He will play only in the World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg four days later.

Holland have not beaten Belgium in six meetings. Their last victory came in 1997, when they won 3-1, thanks to goals by Jaap Stam, Patrick Kluivert and Dennis Bergkamp.

"We haven't done well against Belgium recently," said Blind, 55. "It's time to put that right.

"Arjen won't play though. He recently returned from injury. He'll sit it out and prepare for the game against Luxembourg.

"I'm very happy that he is back fit and playing. Everybody knows how important Arjen is for us."

Robben, 32, has not played interntionally since scoring a double in a 3-2 friendly win over Wales a year ago.

He has been hit by a series of injuries, mainly hamstring issues, over the last 12 months.

In his absence, Holland are lagging in third place in Group A of Europe's World Cup qualifiers, three points behind France and Sweden.

NO STROOTMAN

Blind will also be without AS Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman, who captained the Oranje when they beat Belarus 4-1 but lost 1-0 to France in last month's World Cup qualifiers.

Blind has named newcomer Marvin Zeegelaar, a left back, in the squad and recalled Heerenveen midfielder Stijn Schaars and Sunderland forward Jeremain Lens, who is on loan at Fenerbahce.

While Blind does not have a full squad at his disposal, his Belgian counterpart Roberto Martinez has a selection headache.

The former Everton manager has a dilemma as Manchester City's Vincent Kompany and Kevin de Bruyne return to the Belgium squad.

De Bruyne missed Belgium's last two World Cup qualifiers due to a hamstring injury. In his place, Napoli's Dries Mertens has shone - in a 4-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina and a 6-0 victory over Gibraltar.

Since his return from injury, de Bruyne has conjured up assists and scored with a free-kick for City.

"It's a big problem," conceded Martinez.

"Kevin is having probably the best season of his career. We couldn't wait until he was fit again.

"But Dries Mertens has done exceptionally well. He was probably our most impressive player in recent matches.

"And he's been doing well for his club. Dries is in good form and we should take advantage of this."

Belgium, leaders of Group H, are above Greece on goal difference and have a three-point cushion over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

They face Estonia in their next World Cup qualifier on Monday morning (Singapore time). - Wire Services.

I’m very happy that he is back fit and playing. Everybody knows how important Arjen is for us. 

- Holland coach Danny Blind (above)

 

 

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