- Associated Press - Friday, September 29, 2017

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - Wesley Sneijder was dropped Friday by the Netherlands and winger Ryan Babel recalled for the first time in six years for two crucial World Cup qualifiers.

The Netherlands is third in Group A, four points behind leader France and three points behind second-place Sweden. The Dutch play Belarus at Borisov Arena on Oct. 7, and host Sweden three days later in Amsterdam.

Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat said he did not select Sneijder, who has played a record 132 matches for the national team, because the midfielder cannot break into the first team at French club Nice.

“He remains an outstanding player,” Advocaat said. “But he has to play and get into the Nice team.”

Babel, a former Ajax and Liverpool winger, made the team for the first time since November 2011 after strong performances for Turkish club Besiktas and the absence of injured Quincy Promes.

“He deserves to be back,” Advocaat said. “With Promes out, he’s a great alternative.”

Promes is not the only injured player. Advocaat will also have to do without defender Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi.

The Netherlands, a three-time World Cup runner-up, is in danger of missing its second consecutive major tournament after failing to qualify for last year’s European Championship in France.

Group winners qualify automatically for next year’s World Cup in Russia. The top eight second-place teams advance to European playoffs. Sweden has a better goal difference than the Netherlands and so could lose one of its last two matches - against Luxembourg and the Netherlands - and still finish at least second in the group even if the Dutch win both of their games.

“The most important thing is that we win and then see how many goals we can score,” Advocaat said.

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Netherlands:

Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Barcelona), Maarten Stekelenburg (Everton), Jeroen Zoet (PSV Eindhoven)

Defenders: Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Daley Blind (Manchester United), Wesley Hoedt (Southampton), Daryl Janmaat (Watford), Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax), Karim Rekik (Hertha Berlin), Kenny Tete (Lyon), Joel Veltman (Ajax)

Midfielders: Donny van de Beek (Ajax), Marco van Ginkel (PSV Eindhoven), Davy Klaassen (Everton), Davy Proepper (Brighton), Kevin Strootman (Roma), Tonny Vilhena (Feyenoord), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)

Forwards: Ryan Babel (Besiktas), Memphis Depay (Lyon), Bas Dost (Sporting Lisbon), Vincent Janssen (Fenerbahce), Juergen Locadia (PSV Eindhoven), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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