Netherlands take on Iceland in Amsterdam on Thursday as new coach Danny Blind seeks a much-needed boost in their automatic qualification hopes for Euro 2016.
The former Netherlands centre-back officially took over from Guus Hiddink on August 1 and, after a month of preparation, will face Group A’s leaders at the AmsterdamArena.
Blind served as assistant to Hiddink prior to his resignation, with Netherlands stuttering through their six qualifiers to date – claiming 10 points to sit in third.
Having taken just three points from their opening three games, Hiddink’s men gradually picked up form, but even a 2-0 win over Latvia last time out was not enough to move them into the automatic qualification places.
Going into the final four games, Blind’s side face the prospect of qualifying as the best third-placed team or via the play-offs.
Blind has already mixed things up within the Dutch ranks – making Arjen Robben skipper ahead of vice-captain Robin van Persie – and the former Ajax man has been impressed with Van Persie’s response as well as his squad’s preparations.
“I think Robben brings a lot of enthusiasm,” he said.
“I have already held a meeting during training. I think some players will know that they start. Then we play eleven against eleven, then everything is clear.
“I was impressed with how Van Persie responded, he was very professional. For Robin, only one thing counts. He wants to go to the European Championships.
“On Sunday, he played 90 minutes of football for the first time [this season for Fenerbahce]. That’s not much.”
Van Persie added of the decision: “Of course, I am disappointed.
“But a new coach can always choose a new leader. That is his right. I’m glad I’m still second captain.”
Blind’s son Daley could fill in at left-back for the injured Jetro Willems, while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Luuk de Jong are set to compete for a starting berth ahead of Van Persie.
Iceland have conceded just three times in qualification and beat Netherlands 2-0 in the reverse fixture back in October.
Midfielder Emil Hallfredsson is set to miss Thursday’s qualifier, however, having suffered a muscle tear during Verona’s 2-0 defeat to Genoa on Sunday.
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