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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Hamburg's Van der Vaart gets four-match ban

BERLIN, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Hamburg SV captain Rafael van der Vaart has been banned for the next four matches as punishment for his tackle on Tommy Bechmann in Saturday's 2-1 defeat by VfL Bochum.

The Dutch international midfielder was sent off with 10 minutes to go in Hamburg's latest defeat in an ever more depressing season.

The ban, announced by the German Football Association (DFB) on Monday, deprives Hamburg of their best player for the last two league matches of 2006 and the first two after the mid-season break.

Hamburg, who finished third last season, are second from bottom of the Bundesliga with just 11 points from 15 games. Their two league games before the long break are against Nuremberg and Alemannia Aachen.

The club received further bad news on Monday when Argentine international defender Juan Pablo Sorin was diagnosed with a calf injury that will keep him out until the new year.

'Juan Pablo will not appear again in this half of the season,' Hamburg doctor Oliver Dierk told reporters.