Van Persie poised for welcome comeback

<-- Van Persie

Netherlands coach Marco van Basten has expressed his delight at having Robin van Persie back at his disposal tonight against UEFA EURO 2008™ co-hosts Austria following a five-month absence, but insists the Arsenal FC striker has some hard work ahead of him.

New bent
Traditionally the home of free-flowing, attacking football, the Netherlands that emerged from qualifying for this summer's finals are of a different ilk. Twelve Group G games produced a mere 15 goals, fewer than any of the 14 qualifiers, as defence took precedence. It speaks volumes for Van Persie's creative value that he was his country's top scorer, despite missing five games through injury.

The 24-year-old's last act in qualifying was to limp off with a knee injury in the 2-0 win against Slovenia in October, but he had already made his mark with four goals in the Netherlands' campaign and Van Basten is relieved to have him back. "Robin will be able to experience the atmosphere in the camp again," said the coach, who is likely to call on goalkeeper Henk Timmer in Vienna as Edwin van der Sar and Maarten Stekelenburg are unavailable. "We need to see what role will best suit him in our new playing style."

Full diary
That new style has led to a 4-2-3-1 system supplanting the 4-3-3 formation and Van Persie, expected to replace Ryan Babel in the starting lineup, could thrive in one of the three creative roles. All will be revealed at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion and having played just four games in the last four months, the Gunners forward needs to rediscover his form quickly. "Robin has trained hard in the past few weeks to get in shape," said Van Basten. "A lot of big matches await him and Arsenal before the end of the season – hopefully he will play in a lot of those and get in a good rhythm for the European Championship."