De Guzman fit, gives Van Gaal midfield choice
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Netherlands flew from its training base in Rio to Salvador on Wednesday with an apparently fully-fit squad, giving Louis van Gaal a dilemma about who to play in midfield.
Swansea’s Jonathan de Guzman appears to have fully recovered from a hamstring strain and to be fit enough to play in the Netherlands’ crucial Group B opener against defending champion Spain on Friday, a rematch of the 2010 final the Spaniards won 1-0 in extra time.
Earlier this week at training, Van Gaal looked to have settled on Feyenoord’s Jordy Clasie as one of his three midfielders alongside Nigel de Jong and playmaker Wesley Sneijder.
Now the Netherlands coach has to make a choice.
The midfield berth looked to be the only undecided position in Van Gaal’s team as it flew out of Rio ahead of a closed training session Wednesday evening in Salvador.
Van Gaal is expected to play a five-man defense to stifle Spain’s attacks and hope for a goal on the counterattack from his potent strike force of Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. Sneijder would have a roving role behind them looking to supply the decisive final pass.
De Guzman impressed Van Gaal in warm-up matches before the Dutch squad flew to Brazil, but arrived in Rio nursing a hamstring strain and began preparations training lightly and away from the main group of players.
On Tuesday, he joined what is expected to be Van Gaal’s starting group of players — including Clasie — for training.
After the Spain match, the Netherlands plays Australia in Porto Alegre and finishes group play against Chile in Sao Paulo.