RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Five regular Dutch starters skipped full training for the Netherlands on Thursday as the team prepares for its Round-of-16 game against Mexico.
Defenders Stefan de Vrij and Daley Blind as well as midfielder Nigel de Jong and forward Arjen Robben ran up and down the sidelines at Rio club Flamengo’s training complex while other members of the team played a practice match.
It is not the first time Robben, De Jong and Blind have trained more lightly than their teammates and they have all so far been fit to play in all three of the Dutch victories — over Spain, Australia and Chile — that ensured the team finished top of Group B.
Defender Bruno Martins Indi, who is recovering from a concussion sustained in the win over Australia, spent the session firing shots at goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and did not train with the squad.
Substitute midfielder Leroy Fer, who strained a hamstring in training a day after scoring the opening goal in the 2-0 win over Chile, also did not train. He has been ruled out of Sunday’s match against Mexico and would also be in doubt for the quarterfinals if the Dutch advance that far.
With Brazil and Flamengo great Zico watching from the sidelines, the Dutch went through their paces under a hot midday sun — conditions that will go somewhere to preparing them for the heat they will likely have to contend with during their match with Mexico, which kicks off at 1 p.m. local time in the steamy north of Brazil.
In an indication that Dirk Kuyt could retain a spot in Van Gaal’s starting lineup at left back, the Fenerbahce striker played in the defensive role in a practice match alongside regular first team players Ron Vlaar and Daryl Janmaat.
If Kuyt plays, he would win his 100th cap for the Netherlands and it would be only his second start in a defensive position — his first was in the match against Chile, when he helped shut down one of the most potent attacking teams at the World Cup.
Janmaat briefly sank to the turf clutching his head after a midair collision with midfielder Jonathan de Guzman during the practice match, but he quickly recovered and continued playing.
Swansea City midfielder De Guzman appears to have fallen out of favor for a starting role. PSV player Georginio Wijnaldum started in his place against Chile and played alongside Wesley Sneijder in Thursday’s practice.