- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - Dick Advocaat began his third stint as Netherlands national team coach on Tuesday by saying he believes he can get the struggling squad to next year’s World Cup in Russia.

The experienced coach acknowledged that it will be tough, however.

“It is a fantastic job, a fantastic challenge,” Advocaat said. “Difficult, but definitely possible.”

The Netherlands - a World Cup semifinalist in Brazil in 2014 - is fourth in Group A, six points behind leader France. Only the group winner is guaranteed a World Cup berth. Second place could earn the team a playoff spot.

If Advocaat and new assistant Ruud Gullit manage to get the team to Russia, they will also lead the Netherlands at the World Cup.

Advocaat has previously coached Russia, Belgium and Serbia, as well as club teams including PSV Eindhoven, Glasgow Rangers, Zenit St. Petersburg and Sunderland.

He was appointed last month to replace Danny Blind, who was fired in March after the Netherlands slumped to a humiliating 2-0 loss at Bulgaria in a World Cup qualifier.

Since then, the team lost a friendly to Italy before beating Morocco and Ivory Coast in recent days as it prepares for a crucial qualifier against Luxembourg on Friday in Rotterdam.

Advocaat said Wesley Sneijder will start that match, meaning the veteran midfielder will celebrate his 33rd birthday by becoming the Netherlands‘ most-capped player, eclipsing the record of 130 international matches he currently shares with former goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

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