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May 14, 2006

Huntelaar left out of final Netherlands squad

ZEIST, May 14 (World Cup) - Holland coach Marco van Basten has challenged Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to prove he was wrong after omitting the freescoring Ajax forward from his squad for the World Cup.

Huntelaar was the leading scorer in the Eredivisie with 33 goals for Ajax and former club Heerenveen in the 2005/06 season but, despite his lack of international experience, his admission was a shock in light of recent remarks by Van Basten that implied that Huntelaar would be making the trip to Germany.

Van Basten was the first to admit that the 22-year-old Huntelaar could consider himself unfortunate.

The coach said: 'He (Huntelaar) has bad luck with us as technical staff. We just select players in this way. I have said this from the start.'

Van Basten was full of praise for Huntelaar's attitude and admitted he might be left with egg on his face if the striker scores goals for the Under-21 side in the European Championships for that age group in Portugal this summer.

'He is a cheerful, funny, balanced guy who did well during the training camp,' said Van Basten. 'But four strikers is too much and that is his bad luck.

'But he can focus now on playing the EC in Portugal with Jong Oranje and he can show us there that we did not do the right thing.'

Huntelaar's omission can be seen as a vote of confidence in Ruud van Nistelrooy who is an outcast with his club side Manchester United.

Feyenoord's Dirk Kuyt and PSV Eindhoven's Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink are the other two out-and-out strikers although Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Ryan Babel are all attacking players who play in a more withdrawn role.

While Kuyt has proved a prolific scorer for Feyenoord many will be surprised that Van Basten has preferred Vennegoor of Hesselink to Huntelaar. The youngster's excellent form salvaged a poor season for Ajax who in the end earned Holland's second Champions League spot via the play-offs while they also won the domestic cup.

Van Basten also had words of consolation for AZ Alkmaar defender Barry Opdam and Middlesbrough midfielder George Boateng who also did not make the final cut.

'I called Barry to tell him the news,' said Van Basten. 'He was naturally disappointed and we understand that but in our opinion he has not done too well in the last months and (Ajax defender) John Heitinga was doing better and better in that same period.

'George [Boateng] played a good season but Wesley Sneijder made a good impression on us and we decided to select him instead.'

The selection of Jan Kromkamp after a less than impressive season with Valencia and then Liverpool also raised eyebrows.

Van Basten said: 'Although Jan played less games than we hoped for - we want to have two players for all positions and he did very well at Oranje when he played.'

Some notable names are missing from the list although in the cases of Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Roy Makaay the omissions can not really be considered to be surprises.

Van Basten had wanted to take Feyenoord's Salomon Kalou to Germany but a court ruled that the Ivory Coast-born player did not qualify.

Holland have been drawn in Group C - considered by some the competition's 'Group of Death' - with Argentina, Serbia and Montenegro and the Ivory Coast.

Had the court ruled in favour of Kalou he would have likely faced his brother Bonaventure who is expected to be a starter for the Ivory Coast at the World Cup.

Goalkeepers: Edwin van der Sar (Manchester United), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax Amsterdam), Henk Timmer (AZ Alkmaar).

Defenders: Kew Jaliens (AZ Alkmaar), Jan Kromkamp (Liverpool), Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven), John Heitinga (Ajax Amsterdam), Khalid Boulahrouz (SV Hamburg), Joris Mathijsen (AZ Alkmaar), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Barcelona), Tim de Cler (AZ Alkmaar).

Midfielders: Mark van Bommel (Barcelona), Philip Cocu (PSV Eindhoven), Denny Landzaat (AZ Alkmaar), Hedwiges Maduro (Ajax Amsterdam), Wesley Sneijder (Ajax Amsterdam), Rafael van der Vaart (SV Hamburg).

Strikers: Dirk Kuijt (Feyenoord), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United), Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (PSV Eindhoven), Arjen Robben (Chelsea), Robin van Persie (Arsenal), Ryan Babel (Ajax Amsterdam).