Van der Vaart back in Netherlands squad
Latin American Football Headlines
AMSTERDAM (AP) Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal recalled Rafael van der Vaart on Friday for World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Romania.
Van der Vaart was dropped for the first two qualifiers as he returned to full fitness following his move from Tottenham to Hamburg.
Also back in the squad were midfielders Ibrahim Afellay and Nigel de Jong, who also have proved their match fitness after summer transfers. Afellay moved from Barcelona to Schalke and De Jong from Manchester City to AC Milan.
Van Gaal would not say if Van der Vaart would be used as the Netherlands' creative midfielder in the absence through injury of Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder, but he was full of praise for the veteran after sending scouts to chart his progress in the Bundesliga.
"We concluded he is incredibly fit and that's good news because I already knew he is a great footballer," Van Gaal said.
Van der Vaart is the most experienced player in the 20-man squad, with 100 international appearances.
Van Gaal called up goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer for the first time just days after Ajax's 4-1 Champions League loss to Real Madrid.
Vermeer pulled off a string of good saves, but was powerless to stop Cristiano Ronaldo's hat trick and a spectacular overhead volley by Karim Benzema.
Also making his Dutch debut was Feyenoord forward Ruben Schaken.
Van Gaal said it was possible defender Joris Mathijsen and winger Arjen Robben will have recovered from injuries in time to play Romania.
"I hope and expect Mathijsen will play, Robben is more difficult," Van Gaal said.
The 2010 World Cup runner-up plays Andorra next Friday in Rotterdam before taking on Group D leader Romania in Bucharest four days later.
The Netherlands won its first two World Cup qualifiers against Hungary and Turkey as Van Gaal began rebuilding from the wreckage of the disastrous European Championship campaign under former coach Bert van Marwijk. The Netherlands was eliminated without a point after losing all three of its group matches at Euro 2012.
Goalkeepers: Maarten Stekelenburg (Roma), Michel Vorm (Swansea City), Kenneth Vermeer (Ajax).
Defenders: John Heitinga (Everton), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord), Bruno Martins Indi (Feyenoord), Nick Viergever (AZ Alkmaar), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa), Ricardo van Rhijn (Ajax).
Midfielders: Urby Emanuelson (AC Milan), Nigel de Jong (AC Milan), Kevin Strootman (PSV Eindhoven), Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburger SV), Ibrahim Afellay (Schalke).
Forwards: Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Schalke), Jeremain Lens (PSV), Luciano Narsingh (PSV), Robin van Persie (Manchester United), Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbahce), Ruben Schaken (Feyenoord)
Updated October 5, 2012