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Van Gaal drops stars for friendly

Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and Arjen Robben have all been left out of the Netherlands squad to face Italy.

Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal omitted the trio along with John Heitinga, Gregory van der Wiel and goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg due to a lack of match action at club level.

Sneijder has only just signed for Galatasaray after having been out of favour at Inter Milan, while Robben has featured just six times for Bayern this season and Van der Vaart has also suffered with injuries at Hamburg. Heitinga, Van der Wiel and Stekelenburg, meanwhile, have fallen down the pecking order at Everton, Paris Saint-Germain and Roma respectively.

"It was difficult to follow our criteria but only in the case of Robben was there a temptation to call him," Van Gaal said. "I didn't, though, and that will give other players the opportunity to show whether they can reach their club level on this stage as well."

Stekelenburg had hoped to secure a loan move to Fulham in the transfer window but will again find himself on the bench for Roma as the move fell through.

"Maarten is possibly the best Dutch 'keeper but then he has to show it and that is something that has not happened for a long time," Van Gaal said. "This transfer window was especially important for Stekelenburg and the Dutch team but the outcome was not positive."

Included in the squad for the first time are Ajax defender Daley Blind - the son of Van Gaal's assistant, Danny Blind - and Swansea's Jonathan de Guzman.

Netherlands, who top their World Cup qualifying group with four wins out of four, will host Italy in a friendly on Wednesday.

Squad: Krul (Newcastle), Vermeer (Ajax), Vorm (Swansea); Blind (Ajax), Vlaar (Aston Villa), Janmaat (Feyenoord), Mathijsen (Feyenoord), Martins Indi (Feyenoord), Van Rhijn (Ajax) De Vrij (Feyenoord); Clasie (Feyenoord), Van Ginkel (Vitesse Arnhem), De Guzman (Swansea), Maher (AZ Alkmaar), Strootman (PSV Eindhoven); Huntelaar (Schalke), John (Benfica), Kuyt (Fenerbahce), Lens (PSV Eindhoven), Van Persie (Manchester United).

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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