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Thursday September 5, 2013 MYT 3:27:01 AM
Thursday September 5, 2013 MYT 3:27:20 AM
Galatasaray's Wesley Sneijder celebrates after scoring a goal against Real Madrid during their Champions League quarter-final second leg soccer match in Istanbul April 9, 2013. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
(Reuters) - Playmaker Wesley Sneijder will return to the starting line-up for Netherlands in Friday's World Cup Group D qualifier against Estonia after coach Louis van Gaal brushed aside previous fitness concerns he had about him.
The 29-year-old former captain was only recalled to the squad as a late injury replacement for the trip to Tallinn for a match where the Dutch have vowed to run ragged their hosts.
"Sneijder is at the moment the best option in the playmaker position," said the coach who stripped Sneijder of the team captaincy in June and then left him out of last month's friendly in Portugal saying he was not fit.
"Fitness is an issue but fitness is no longer an issue if I don't have any other choice," the coach told a news conference on Wednesday as reporters pressed him for an explanation on this sudden about-turn regarding the player.
Sneijder was called up on Monday to replace the injured Georgino Wijnaldum. Rafael van der Vaart has since also pulled out.
"I don't care that people don't agree with me because I decide. Sneijder has had a year in which he has not played much," Van Gaal said.
"Normally I'd have picked him later when he returned to fitness. But players have pulled out and therefore I naturally pick Sneijder because I know what his qualities are."
The Galatasaray player has 93 caps after a decade in the Dutch team.
Netherlands lead qualifying Group D after six wins out of six and can qualify for the 2014 World Cup if they win in Tallinn and Andorra four days later.
Van Gaal said his side would need to thoroughly outplay Estonia if they are to win on Friday and edge closer to next year's finals.
"They are very organised and they keep at it for 90 minutes. Therefore if you relax you can easily concede a goal and then it becomes really difficult," he said.
"We have to run them ragged and that is what we must do on Friday."
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Sonia Oxley)
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