Wales v Netherlands: World Cup 2018 preparations begin for Huntelaar


Netherlands are looking to bounce back from their failure to qualify for Euro 2016 with a positive result against Wales at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday.

Danny Blind's side finished fourth in their qualification group, behind Iceland, Czech Republic and Turkey , while Wales secured their place in the finals by finishing behind Belgium in their pool.

Despite missing out on a place in France and losing four of their last six internationals, the former Ajax coach has retained his position with the national side.

A big change from Blind has seen Robin van Persie - the highest-scoring player in Netherlands' history with 50 goals in 101 appearances - dropped from the side.

That will benefit Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - eight goals behind the Fenerbahce striker in the national scoring charts - but he is trying to look past the absences of some of his long-term team-mates and focus on helping Netherlands reach World Cup 2018.

"It feels weird, just as it is still strange that Nigel de Jong and John Heitinga are missing," he is quoted as saying by

"Those are guys from my generation. You cannot play football for good, but the horizon is not yet in my sight.

"The pain we feel will remain until the European Championships, but we have to continue.

"It is no different; we must now focus on the start of the World Cup qualifiers next September."

Wales have integral players of their own missing as they look to end a run of seven straight defeats to the Dutch, with Gareth Bale (calf) and Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) unavailable for selection.

Both players missed Wales' last meeting with Netherlands - a 2-0 defeat in June 2014 - while Sam Vokes has also pulled out with a groin problem.

However, coach Chris Coleman believes their absence offers younger players a chance to prove themselves ahead of Euro 2016.

"There are quite a few places in the squad still up for grabs," he said.

"The door is still very much open and in six or seven months a lot of things can change.

"What the players do in games like this one now is very important in that process and, of course, what they are doing with their clubs over the coming months too.

"When there's an opportunity to impress they are going to have to step up to the plate."

Arjen Robben has scored in both of Netherlands' previous clashes with Wales and will be available despite a thigh problem, while Kenneth Vermeer and Jairo Riedewald have been replaced in the squad by Jeroen Zoet and Erik Pieters.

Davy Klaassen is the latest player to withdraw due to a knee injury, and no player has been selected in his stead.