Netherlands Camp Focus – Van Persie announces return as van Bronckhorst announces retirement

The Netherlands played their first World Cup warm-up game against Mexico on Wednesday night and Robin van Persie looked sharp scoring a brace in the 2-1 win, which is a very promising sign ahead of the competition proper.

Both of the Arsenal forward’s goals came in the first half of the game as he converted both of his goals in a clinical fashion at the Badenova-Stadion in Freiburg, Germany. If van Persie can stay fit he could be the thorn in the side of many a defence during this summer’s tournament in South Africa going into it as one of the competition’s most accomplished forwards. The somewhat injury-prone 26-year-old has been out with an ankle injury for most of the season but his recovery could not be timed any better for Dutch Coach Bert van Marwijk.

It was not all plain sailing for the Oranje as they were made to sweat on their win with the Mexicans pulling a goal back in the 74th minute via Javier Hernandez and it took a great save from Dutch stopper Maarten Stekelenburg to secure the victory as he tipped a fierce Giovani dos Santos shot over the bar. A few question marks may be raised over the Netherlands’ midfield who were guilty of surrendering possession needlessly at times in the game, particularly in the period between their first and second goals.

Coach van Marwijk also gave an insight into his possible tactics for the World Cup after he lined up for 4-3-2-1 formation with van Persie the lone striker supported by Rafael van der Vaart and Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt. However, the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Mark van Bommel were rested after their involvement in the UEFA Champions League final last weekend, so van Marwijk may change a few things ahead of the next two friendly matches against Ghana on June 1 and Hungary on June 5.

The Holland Coach has a few decisions he will have to make ahead of the World Cup and he may be worrying about the fitness of one of his players. Ryan Babel picked up a hamstring injury during the squad’s World Cup training camp in Austria last week, which has thrown his chances of being on the plane to South Africa in serious doubt.

Soon van Marwijk will be cutting the current playing squad from 27 to 23 and the likelihood of the Liverpool forward’s inclusion in the final squad is looking increasingly slim, made all the more difficult by not being able to get on to the pitch to prove his worth to the team. Babel has a history and reputation as a hot-headed character and has struggled to make an impact for Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool side ever since he arrived at Anfield from Ajax. But since his farcical outburst against Benitez and the club on social networking site on Twitter, he has regained some of his form since apologising to his manager and started to get more playing time towards the end of the Premier League season.

The former Ajax player told Liverpoolfc.tv: “I am still not sure if I’m going to be in the squad but that is the aim for me to play in the World Cup finals for Holland. The World Cup is something special for every footballer. I was 18 when I was in the squad in 2006 and it was a great experience.”

In other news Oranje skipper Giovanni van Bronckhorst has announced that he will retire from football after the World Cup at the age of 35. Veteran van Bronckhorst has been a valuable servant to the Dutch national side and is set to complete a hat-trick of World Cup campaigns to add to the three European Championships that he has competed in for the national side. The Dutch captain has a very special day coming up as it stands he has 97 caps, with his 100th appearance for Holland earmarked for some point this summer – most likely the third and final warm-up game against Hungary on June 5. The player will join Feyenoord’s backroom staff after the finals, but admits it was a difficult decision to call time on his playing career: “I had doubts for months and the decision to quit wasn’t easy but now I feel relieved. The World Cup is a beautiful end for my career. Besides physical (conditioning) you also need to be mentally fit and that is how I feel now [after deciding to retire].”

Holland will kick of their World Cup campaign against Denmark on June 14, with Japan and Cameroon to follow in Group E.

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