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Belgium - Netherlands Preview: Van Gaal returns to Oranje bench in Brussels
The Dutch will be looking to shake off the disappointment of this summer's European Championship when they take on their Benelux cousins
Gillet, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen
Dembele, Hazard, Mertens
Van Rhijn, Heitinga, Martins Indi, Willems
De Jong, Van der Vaart
Robben, Sneijder, Afellay
New Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has some of Europe's finest talents in his squad, and he will be keen to prove the Belgium FA right for appointing him on a permanent basis.
Premier League stars such as Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen could all start in defence, with only the position of right-back a bit of problem area. Laurent Ciman has never really been able to impress, so Anderlecht midfielder Guillaume Gillet could start as wing-back.
A groin injury forced Marouane Fellaini to withdraw from the squad, thus creating room for Portugal-based duo Steven Defour and Axel Witsel behind a line of three attacking midfielders. Moussa Dembele and Eden Hazard are expected to feature from the outset, with PSV winger Dries Mertens possibly starting as well.
Wilmots has a number of options for the striker position as Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Kevin Mirallas will all be eager to start. However, it is the latter who appears to be sitting in pole position for a starting berth.
Meanwhile, Netherlands will be making a fresh start under new national team coach Louis van Gaal after Euro 2012, and a number of regulars have been left out of the squad for Wednesday's encounter.
Former captain Mark van Bommel said after this summer's Euros that he felt the time had come to make way for younger players, and was consequently omitted from the squad, while Khalid Boulahrouz, Gregory van der Wiel and Ron Vlaar did not make the cut either.
Roma goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg is likely to get the nod between the sticks, with Tim Krul probably having to settle for a place as a substitute. In defence, Ajax starlet Ricardo van Rhijn is expected to start at right-back, while Feyenoord's Bruno Martins Indi could make his debut as well after impressing Van Gaal in the recent Champions League qualifier versus Dynamo Kiev.
Rafael van der Vaart will probably partner Nigel de Jong in midfield following Kevin Strootman's injury, with the three more attacking slots being occupied by seasoned stars Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Ibrahim Afellay. Van Gaal faces the same problem up front that caused his predecessor Bert van Marwijk a serious headache as he will have to make a choice between Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Hot prospects such as Stefan de Vrij, Nick Viergever, Adam Maher and Bas Dost are likely to start from the bench, but will be hopeful of making a substitute appearance after the interval.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Belgium and Netherlands have met 124 times so far, with the hosts emerging victorious on 40 occasions, the Oranje winning 55 games, and the remaining 29 matches ending in a draw.
- The Rode Duivels' biggest win over their neighbours dates from March 17, 1940, when the Dutch were hammered 7-1 as Jules van Craen netted a hat-trick for Belgium.
- Hazard (pictured) is one of the seven players in the squad for Wednesday's match who has never played in the Belgian top tier. Vertonghen, Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld, Nacer Chadli, Kevin Mirallas and Dries Mertens are the other six.
- Veteran midfielder Timmy Simons is only five matches away from equalling Jan Ceulemans as Belgium's most-capped player with 96 appearances.
- No player in the Netherlands squad has scored as many goals for the side as Huntelaar. The Schalke striker has found the net 31 times up till date.
- Nigel de Jong is one yellow card away from becoming the most booked Netherlands player in history. The Manchester City midfielder currently shares the unsavoury honour with Jaap Stam.
- Van Gaal has included six debutants in his squad - Van Rhijn, Martins Indi, De Vrij, Viergever, Maher and Dost.
- Rafael van der Vaart made his Oranje debut under Van Gaal back in 2001, and is now in line for his 100th appearance for the national side.
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Top 3 Predictions
Belgium 1-3 Netherlands
- 15.82 %
Belgium 1-2 Netherlands
- 11.09 %
Belgium 0-2 Netherlands
- 10.28 %
|International Friendlies (FR)||Aug 15, 2012||Belgium 4 - Netherlands 2|
|Mar 26, 2013||Belgium 1 - Macedonia FYR 0||WCQ|
|Mar 22, 2013||Macedonia FYR 0 - Belgium 2||WCQ|
|Feb 6, 2013||Belgium 2 - Slovakia 1||FR|
|Nov 14, 2012||Romania 2 - Belgium 1||FR|
|Oct 16, 2012||Belgium 2 - Scotland 0||WCQ|
|3||Daniel Van Buyten||Defender|
|-||Kevin De Bruyne||Midfielder|
|-||Ricardo van Rhijn||Defender|
|-||Nigel De Jong|
|23||Rafael van der Vaart||Midfielder|
|-||Bruno Martins Indi||Defender|
|-||Stefan de Vrij||Defender|
The attacker completed his high-profile move from Lille to Chelsea earlier this summer and he will be eager to use every opportunity to prove himself in front of a bigger crowd. The Dutch defence has been shaky over the past few years, and Hazard will be the one most likely to exploit Oranje's weaknesses with his mazy dribbles and intelligent passing.
The tricky winger had a disappointing end to the 2011-12 campaign both at club- and international level and will be desperate to return to his best on Wednesday. Robben previously enjoyed a fine spell under Van Gaal at Bayern Munich, and the attacker will be looking to build on this period in the national team coach's first match at the helm since his comeback.
Both sides have plenty to prove on Wednesday as Belgium will be looking to finally fulfil their immense potential with the 2014 World Cup qualification set to start next month, while Netherlands will be desperate to get back on track after their Euro 2012 disaster. An even encounter therefore seems to be on the cards between two teams who know each other very well. The guests might perhaps have a bit more quality up front, but the home side match that with some impressive defensive strength. A draw seems to be the most likely option in Brussels.
Times In GMT
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed