Sneijder to set Dutch appearance record on his birthday

AMSTERDAM: Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder will break his country's appearance record on his birthday against Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier on Friday after a frantic dash over the last few days to ensure he could combine the milestones.

Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat has confirmed that Sneijder will start the match in Rotterdam on the day he turns 33 to reach 131 caps and pass goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar's total.

Sneijder was a second-half substitute in a 2-1 friendly win in Morocco last week after joining the squad on the eve of the game before flying back to Turkey to play for Galatasaray in their last game of the season against Konyaspor on Saturday.

He then hired a private jet to whisk him to the Netherlands after the game so he could play in the last 20 minutes of Sunday’s 5-0 friendly win over the Ivory Coast in Rotterdam, where he equalled the appearance record.

“You could assume there would be further opportunity to overtake Edwin but there is only one chance to set a record for caps on your birthday. After so many years in the national team I think that’s tremendous, very symbolic,” Sneijder told Dutch media.

There had been some muted criticism of an unseemly dash for caps by Sneijder but he defended himself, saying: “The record is not the only reason I have been travelling around, I take every chance I get to play for the national team.”

Advocaat, back in charge of the Netherlands after a season coaching in Turkey, confirmed Sneijder would start in Friday’s Group A match where the struggling Dutch need a victory to keep up their hopes of a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

They are fourth with seven points from five games, six adrift of leaders France and three behind second-placed Sweden.

“I saw almost all his matches this season. He was Galatasaray’s best player and possibly the best in the Turkish league. He will play from the start against Luxembourg,” said Advocaat, who was coach of Fenerbahce this season.

Advocaat, then in his second spell as national team boss, handed Sneijder his debut in a 1-1 draw with Portugal in 2003.