Ryan Babel was recalled to the Netherlands squad on Friday after a six-year absence as coach Dick Advocaat named 24 players for key World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Sweden.
The 30-year-old Babel, who scored for Turkish side Besiktas in the Champions League on Tuesday, won the last of his 42 caps in 2011.
“He has earned a right to a place in the squad,” said Advocaat, who has dropped Wesley Sneijder, the country’s most-capped player, and is without injured Quincy Promes, Robin van Persie and Bruno Martins Indi for the matches in Borisov on Oct. 7 and home to Sweden three days later.
The Dutch must win both games – their last two in the group – and overtake Sweden on goal difference if they are to claim a top-two berth.
France are expected to top the standings, leaving the Dutch to battle with the Swedes for the runners-up berth. If they finish equal of points, the Swedes look best-placed to advance as they have a goal difference of plus 11 to plus five for the Netherlands.
“But it’s not going to work if all we think about is how many goals we will score,” Advocaat told a news conference on Friday.
“If you think that we can go and win 5-0 in Belarus then you don’t understand the capacity of this Dutch team.
“We must first plainly go there to win – and then see what is possible during the match. You can’t start international matches these days with a goal target in your head.”
The Netherlands were World Cup runners-up in 2010 and third in Brazil in 2014 but have made heavy weather of qualifying for next year’s tournament in Russia.
France top the standings with 17 points, Sweden have 16 and the Dutch 13. Fourth-placed Bulgaria are also still in the race on 12 points.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines