Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat recalled veteran striker Robin van Persie on Friday to his squad for crucial World Cup qualifiers against France and Bulgaria.
Fenerbahce forward Van Persie played the last of his 101 internationals in October 2015. The 34-year-old former Arsenal and Manchester United star is the Netherlands’ all-time top scorer with 50 goals.
“I still think he is one of the best strikers we have,” Advocaat said as he announced his squad.
It remains to be seen if Van Persie is fit enough to play a full match, or if Advocaat will use him off the bench.
“He can make a very important contribution to the Dutch team,” the coach said.
Van Persie was one of six forwards included in the squad, with Memphis Depay of Olympique Lyon and Tottenham striker Vincent Janssen.
The Dutch need Van Persie to start finding the net again. After six matches, the Netherlands is third in Group A, three points behind Sweden, which leads the group on goal difference from France. Only the winner is guaranteed a place at next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Van Persie is part of a core of senior players in the 24-man squad that also includes captain Arjen Robben and midfielder Wesley Sneijder.
Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek earned his first call-up for the national team a day after his club team was knocked out of the Europa League by Norwegian team Rosenborg. Van de Beek’s inclusion in the squad came as his former Ajax teammate, Everton midfielder Davy Klaassen, was forced to miss the internationals through injury.
The Netherlands plays France on Thursday in Saint-Denis and returns to Amsterdam to take on Bulgaria on Sept. 3. Failure to reach Russia would mean the three-time World Cup runner-up missing its second straight major tournament after it also did not qualify for last year’s European Championship in France.
Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Barcelona), Maarten Stekelenburg (Everton), Jeroen Zoet (PSV Eindhoven).
Defenders: Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Daley Blind (Manchester United), Wesley Hoedt (Southampton), Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax), Karim Rekik (Hertha Berlin), Kenny Tete (Olympique Lyon), Joel Veltman (Ajax), Stefan de Vrij (Lazio).
Midfielders: Donny van de Beek (Ajax), Marco van Ginkel (PSV), Tonny Vilhena (Feyenoord), Davy Proepper (Brighton & Hove Albion), Wesley Sneijder (Nice), Kevin Strootman (Roma), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool).
Forwards: Memphis Depay (Olympique Lyon), Bas Dost (Sporting Lisbon), Vincent Janssen (Tottenham Hotspur), Robin van Persie (Fenerbahce), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich).