May 15 Robin van Persie will captain the Netherlands in their World Cup warm-up match against Ecuador on Saturday as coach Louis van Gaal insists he needs game time after a long injury layoff.
“He must get fit. All of the friendlies before the World Cups are matches for him to build up,” Van Gaal told NOS television as the Dutch resumed their pre-tournament preparations in Hoenderloo on Thursday.
Van Persie was out for two months with a knee injury, returning to play in Manchester United’s last three league game of the season, the first two as a substitute before starting against Southampton last weekend.
The 30-year-old striker joined the Dutch training camp on Thursday and will be play against Ecuador in Amsterdam on Saturday.
The Dutch also have friendlies against Ghana in Rotterdam on May 31 and Wales in Amsterdam on June 4.
Van Gaal will implement the new tactical 5-3-2 system which he will use at the World Cup.
“I’ll start the match with the group that I’ve been training with for the last week and a half. They know what we have been busy with,” Van Gaal added.
He began the first of several mini training camps last week with Dutch-based players only after the early completion of the league season in the Netherlands.
They have since been joined by all but five of their foreign-based contingent.
But four Under-21 players who Van Gaal surprisingly named in his preliminary squad of 30 on Tuesday have temporarily left the World Cup training base to play against Scotland (May 28) and Luxembourg (June 3) in European U-21 Championship qualifers.
They are Jean-Paul Boetius, Quincy Promes, Karim Rekik and Tonny Vilhena.
“The Under-21 side is as important as the national team. They will come back into the squad if they are chosen in the final 23,” Van Gaal said.
“They can still earn their places in the World Cup by playing well for the Under-21s.
The Dutch squad will travel early next week with 26 players to Portugal for their next training camp.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ed Osmond; firstname.lastname@example.org; +27 82 8257807; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com; To sign up for our Global Sports Forum chatroom, click here)