- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - Netherlands coach Danny Blind named two new defenders Friday in his squad for a World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria and a friendly against Italy.

Blind picked 17-year-old Ajax center back Matthijs de Ligt and Lazio defender Wesley Hoedt for his 25-man squad, looking to plug gaps left by a string of injuries to regulars such as Virgil van Dijk and Jeffrey Bruma.

De Ligt, who only made his Ajax debut in November, would be one of the youngest ever debutants for the Netherlands.

“He could be a surprise for many people, a very young player who has just started knocking on the door,” Blind said. “But I’ve known him for longer, from the Ajax academy.”

If Hoedt is picked to play, he could team up with his Lazio defensive teammate Stefan de Vrij.

Veteran midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who was not included in Blind’s provisional squad announced last week, was named in the final 25 despite concerns about the 32-year-old Galatasaray player’s fitness.

The Dutch take on Bulgaria in Sofia on March 25 and return to Amsterdam to play Italy three days later. The Netherlands is in second place in Group A behind France.

After failing to qualify for last year’s European Championship in France, the Netherlands has to win Group A to directly qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia or finish second to secure a playoff spot.

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Netherlands:

Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Barcelona), Michel Vorm (Tottenham), Jeroen Zoet (PSV Eindhoven)

Defenders: Daley Blind (Manchester United), Wesley Hoedt (Lazio), Rick Karsdorp (Feyenoord), Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax), Bruno Martins Indi (Stoke), Kenny Tete (Ajax), Joel Veltman (Ajax), Nick Viergever (Ajax), Stefan de Vrij (Lazio)

Midfielders: Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), Kevin Strootman (Roma), Jens Toornstra (Feyenoord), Tonny Vilhena (Feyenoord), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)

Forwards: Bas Dost (Sporting Lisbon), Vincent Janssen (Tottenham), Jeremain Lens (Fenerbahce), Memphis Depay (Lyon), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)

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