Van Persie may take Robben’s place
The Netherlands coach may substitute Robin van Persie in the match against Italy on Monday as Arjen Robben is out with a groin injury.9 June 2008
BERN - Arjen Robben could miss the entire first round of the European Championship, a setback that could force Netherlands coach Marco van Basten to use Robin van Persie as early as Monday against Italy.
Robben injured his groin kicking a ball in training Saturday, putting him out of action for as long as 10 days, Van Basten said Sunday.
At the same time he lauded Van Persie for a quick recovery from a thigh injury and hinted that he could make Monday's game against the World Cup champions, still most likely as a substitute.
"He gives the impression to be physically fully fit," Van Basten said. "The time is coming close that he will be able to start a game."
Only a week ago, the Dutch arrived at their training camp brimming with optimism and close to a fully fit team. At the same time, Italy had to deal with the ankle injury of Fabio Cannavaro, which ruled their star defender out of Euro 2008.
Now, Van Basten is in trouble with his two standout wingers. Both have often been injury prone and missed part of the season with their clubs.
"He will be out for seven to 10 days, in the most positive case a little bit less," Van Basten said of Robben.
The Dutch then play France on Friday before meeting Romania on June 17.
"Hopefully time will bring good tidings," Van Basten said.
After four years at the helm, Van Basten was finally convinced his team had the right balance and experience to cap his coaching stint with an excellent championship. Instead, he is in charge of a patched up operation, trying to find a workable system on the eve of the biggest game in two years.
"We have some fun solutions in store," he said after the last Dutch training session.
When Ryan Babel injured his ankle late last month, nobody thought much of it. He was supposed to be a substitute anyhow on a team already rich in creative players. Now, Robben's groin injury sheds a different light on this.
Robben had been the team's best player in the preparation campaign, running deep, setting up goals and scoring one, too. To make up for the loss, Van Basten has three likely options.
Apart from bringing back Van Persie early, he may shuffle the lineup to give a starting role for Dirk Kuyt, the Liverpool forward who makes up in industry what he lacks in flash. Or he could enter 21-year-old Ibrahim Afellay of PSV Eindhoven as a more straightforward replacement.
Defender Mario Melchiot returned to training Sunday after missing one day because of an irritated pubis bone.
On top of his offensive woes, Van Basten also has worries about the defence. Without outstanding defenders in top clubs, he has to find a way to keep the towering Luca Toni away from Edwin van der Sar's goal.
[AP / Expatica]