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Melchiot to return to training Sunday ahead of Italy clash

Melchiot to return to training Sunday ahead of Italy clash

The Netherlands opens the European Championship with few injury worries, which is especially good considering it has to play world champion Italy and runner-up France within the next week.
Mario Melchiot missed training Saturday because of an irritated pubis bone but should be fully fit by the time the Netherlands faces Italy on Monday _ although the defender was not necessarily a starter even if fully fit.
Forward Robin Van Persie moved freely during Saturday's training, continuing a recovery from a thigh injury that could see him enter Monday's game as a substitute. Midfielder Wesley Sneijder also appeared to be fully fit after a tight hamstring sidelined him on Thursday.
Coach Marco van Basten knows he will have to be able to count on every available resource over the next week.
"They already played the World Cup," Van Basten said of his first two opponents. "Two years later they also are getting better and better."
Romania completes the tough Group C.
Even when he started out four years ago, Van Basten insisted he was working for Euro 2008, and he now feels he has a balanced team to work with.
They played immaturely during a second-round loss to Germany in the World Cup, but Van Basten is convinced they learned from that.
"A lot of players are now playing in the big Spanish and English leagues, more players are playing abroad than two years ago. We have made some steps forward," he said.
The weakest link is considered the back four, even though the defense only conceded five goals in 12 games in qualifying. All too often though, it was the sterling work of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar which saved the Dutch from some embarrassing results.
Defenders come may come from reputable clubs like Andre Ooijer's Blackburn Rovers, John Heitinga's Ajax or, in Melchiot's case, Wigan. Facing world champion Italy, though, is something else.
Both Sneijder and winger Van Persie trained with the full squad Saturday despite injury problems earlier in the week.
Sneijder had a tight hamstring on Thursday and missed a training session because of it. He is especially prized as the No. 1 free kick taker on the team and already scored a beauty against Wales last Sunday in the last warmup game.
Van Persie can make mesmerizing runs on both wings and decide a game with a single action. In his absence during an injury marred season, Arjen Robben has been during the same during the Dutch preparation campaign.
Up front, goals are expected to come from Ruud van Nistelrooy, a Real Madrid teammate of Robben and Sneijder. He had an infamous falling out with Van Basten during the World Cup, and was sidelined in the decisive loss against Portugal.
They have since restored a working relationship which should bear fruit over the next week.


Updated : 2021-01-27 00:52 GMT+08:00