Soccer-De Ligt hopeful of recovering in time to play on Sunday


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Coppa Italia - Final - Atalanta v Juventus - Mapei Stadium - Citta del Tricolore, Reggio Emilia, Italy - May 19, 2021 Juventus' Matthijs de Ligt celebrates after winning the Coppa Italia REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Netherlands defender Matthijs de Ligt reckons he has a 50-50 chance of overcoming a groin injury and being fit for his side's opening Euro 2020 against Ukraine in Amsterdam on Sunday.

De Ligt returned to full training for the first time on Thursday since suffering the injury last Saturday at the Dutch training camp in Portugal.

"We'll see how it feels on the day itself," he told reporters, "but Sunday is definitely my goal".

The 21-year-old is seen as one of the most exciting prospects for the European Championship and his participation in Sunday's Group C game would boost the Dutch, whose defence is already shorn of first choice goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and captain Virgil van Dijk.

"It's 50-50, but I feel good. Let's say 60 percent chance I'll make it," De Ligt said, quickly upping the odds.

Being inserted at the last minute would not be a concern, he added. "I have played all the last 15 games of the Serie A season with Juventus, so I have match rhythm anyway.

"It's about the pain I feel right now. It has already decreased so much."

Jurrien Timber, who won his first cap against Scotland last week, is De Ligt's possible replacement if coach Frank de Boer goes with three centre backs against Ukraine, as expected.

"I have often seen him play at Ajax," said De Ligt about the 19-year-old Timber, another off the Ajax Amsterdam production line. "That was often in a four-man defence, as a right central defender or as a right back. You could already see there that his technical base is good.

"You also see that in the matches. He is calm with the ball and is looking for the right football solutions. He also stands his ground. He has done an excellent job in the last two matches. He has shown the national coach that he can play at this level."

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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