8 October 2014 18:28
Netherlands will be boosted by the return of Arjen Robben when they look to avoid a humiliating Euro 2016 qualifying loss to Kazakhstan.
Guus Hiddink’s side suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Czech Republic in their Group A opener last month following an injury-time winner from Vaclav Pilar in Prague.
The World Cup semi-finalists will be heavily favoured to bounce back from that reverse against Kazakhstan in what will be the first meeting between the two nations in a full international.
Netherlands have never lost a European Championship qualifier or play-off at home and Hiddink believes the prospect of losing that record should be unthinkable heading into Friday’s contest at the Amsterdam Arena.
“When you come back from a great World Cup, it is often the case that it is difficult in the initial phase when you resume,” Hiddink said.
“Major teams should never lose two matches in a row and you can apply that standard to Oranje.”
Hiddink is still waiting for his first win in his second stint in charge of the national team, but the return of winger Robben should serve as a significant confidence boost for the 1988 European champions.
The Bayern Munich man missed the setback in the Czech Republic and the 2-0 friendly loss to Italy five days earlier because of an ankle injury, but is back to full fitness and heads into the game in fine form having scored twice in the Bundesliga champions’ 4-0 hammering of Hannover last Saturday.
However, Hiddink will be without the services of Newcastle United right-back Daryl Janmaat – whose mistake led to Pilar’s winner – due to a hamstring strain, while Memphis Depay (groin), Ron Vlaar and midfielder Rafael van der Vaart (both calf) and Jordy Clasie (hamstring) are all ruled out.
Dirk Kuyt called time on his international career last Friday, but defender Virgil van Dijk could win his first cap after being handed a call-up.
With Robben back in the fray, the hosts will be expected to claim a comfortable triumph, yet they cannot afford to underestimate a Kazakhstan side that has lost just once under coach Yury Krasnozhan since the Russian’s appointment back in February.
Kazakhstan played out a goalless draw with Latvia – ranked 28 places above them by FIFA – in their opening group fixture, a result that Krasnozhan revealed had left the eastern European side disappointed.
“The lads are unhappy,” Krasnozhan said after the game. “We drew with this team seven months ago. They were pretty happy with that result.
“Now we can see things have changed in terms of expectations.”
But, with their last away win in a European Championship qualifier coming back in 2007, the visitors will likely need to curb those expectations as they seek a victory which would represent their finest hour.