Netherlands midfielder Rafael van der Vaart has been ruled out of the World Cup after the experienced international picked up a calf injury at a training camp in Portugal, the Dutch football association KNVB confirmed on Wednesday.
Capped 109 times for his country, the 31-year-old Hamburg midfielder suffered the injury at a training camp for the Brazil tournament on Tuesday with KNVB saying he was not expected to recover in time to participate in the June 12-July 13 finals.
Van der Vaart sat out training on Monday because of a fever before conducting a individual session on Tuesday while the rest of his team mates were preparing to leave the Algarve at the end of the camp.
It was during this session that he was injured but the extent of the tear only confirmed after medical examination in Amsterdam on Wednesday.
The former Ajax, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder competed at the last two World Cup finals and was expected to a play a major role for the team in Brazil. His injury means the Dutch have lost two key midfielders in the run-up to the tournament with Roma’s Kevin Strootman ruled out in March through a serious knee injury.
Van der Vaart had struggled with the calf injury throughout the recently concluded Bundesliga season in which his club narrowly avoided relegation.
The Dutch are expected to name their final 23-man squad for Brazil on Saturday. They meet Spain in their opening Group B fixture on June 13, followed by games against Australia (June 18) and Chile (June 23).
Schweinsteiger back in training
Germany’s hopes of having a fully fit squad at next month’s World Cup in Brazil received a boost on Wednesday when holding midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira trained with the team for the first time. Bayern Munich’s Schweinsteiger has endured an injury-hit season, with an inflamed knee the latest setback to keep him out of action in recent weeks. Khedira, who formed a solid midfield partnership with Schweinsteiger at Euro 2012 and the previous World Cup for Germany, has only recently returned to action after a six-month layoff due to a torn cruciate ligament in his knee last year.
He has played only a handful of games since his recovery, including starting for Real Madrid’s victorious Champions League side last week in the win over local rivals Atletico, and only joined his Germany team mates Monday.
“You have to let this (Champions League) win sink in a bit and I tried to enjoy it. But now I have a different aim for which I prepared for these last six months and now I am here,” Khedira told reporters after his first training session.
Both players appeared to be moving freely on the pitch on a sunny day in the Italian Alps, the site of Germany’s pre-tournament training camp. “It is difficult to estimate in percentages but I am fit,” said Khedira. “There are some details I need to continue working on but that was clear from the start. It was always going to be a long process but my aim was always to be fit for the World Cup.”
“It is extremely important that I train with the team and I also do extra training. Things are looking up and I will be fully fit by June. We want to be world champions and will do everything to achieve it.” It was not all good news for coach Joachim Loew, however, with captain Philipp Lahm completing just a light training run on Wednesday while injured defender Marcel Schmelzer also worked out alone. Keeper Manuel Neuer has been ruled out for at least a few more days and will not train at all in Italy as he recovers from a shoulder injury, with team officials insisting his participation at the finals was not in doubt.
“I am certain he will be on the pitch by June 16 (for Germany’s opening game against Portugal) even if he does not play until then. He is so professional and has such abilities that he will prepare himself to be fit by then,” Khedira said.
Germany, who will also face Ghana and the United States in Group G, play warm-up games against Cameroon on June 1 and Armenia on June 6 before departing for Brazil.