Striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is tipping the Netherlands to beat Germany and let him taste victory over their archrivals at the third attempt when the Dutch host their injury-hit neighbors today.
“Netherlands against Germany is always a special game,” the 29-year-old Schalke 04 striker said. “The fans will be fully behind us and we want to win it. I say: 1-0 to the Netherlands.”
Germany have lost seven first-choice players over the weekend — defenders Jerome Boateng, Marcel Schmelzer, Holger Badstuber, plus midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and striker Miroslav Klose.
The loss of vice captain Schweinsteiger, Germany’s midfield general, and 34-year-old Klose, the lone striker in the squad, will significantly weaken Germany’s attack, while head coach Joachim Loew will need to shuffle his defense.
Klose’s withdrawal means his bid to become Germany’s all-time record goalscorer — he is currently one behind Gerd Mueller’s tally of 68 goals — will have to wait.
Loew had already called up as replacements Bayer 04 Leverkusen midfielder Sven Bender and Eintracht Frankfurt defender Sebastien Jung, and he has now been forced to add Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby as emergency cover.
The hosts have injury concerns of their own after Manchester United star striker Robin van Persie withdrew with a thigh injury, despite playing the full 90 minutes of his team’s 3-2 Premier League win at Aston Villa on Saturday.
Coach Louis van Gaal has called up VfL Wolfsburg’s Bas Dost as a replacement, but Van Persie’s departure clears the way for Huntelaar to start.
Huntelaar has a better scoring record for his country with 34 goals in 59 matches, compared with Van Persie’s 31 in 71 games.
The Netherlands want revenge over Germany after losing 2-1 to their neighbors at Euro 2012, having been thrashed 3-0 in a friendly in November last year.
“This is a new game, in those two matches we had no chances to win,” Huntelaar said. “Since then we have changed a lot, with new faces and young players in the team. We have a lot of potential and we will see in this game where we are with the national team. For us, it is a good test to play against such a good team like Germany.”
While the Netherlands enjoyed a comfortable 4-1 win in Romania in their last international on Oct. 16, Germany were involved in one of the most remarkable games in their rich 104-year history, a 4-4 draw with Sweden in Berlin.
Having taken a 4-0 lead, the Germany defense leaked four goals in 30 minutes and Loew will want to see a sharp improvement in his team’s defending.
With no recognized striker in his squad Loew will have to experiment, with Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Marco Reus likely to be given a more forward role.
“We want to end this year in good fashion and win this prestigious duel in the Netherlands,” Germany manager Oliver Bierhoff said. “It is important to be tested like this. Regarding planning for the season, we intend to face opponents like them often.”