Netherlands midfielder Rafael van der Vaart will miss the World Cup in Brazil this summer after sustaining a serious calf injury in training.
The news was reported by BBC Sport on Wednesday via its Twitter account:
Netherlands midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, will miss the World Cup after injuring a calf muscle in his right leg pic.twitter.com/d8TiSwU3rv— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 28, 2014
The 31-year-old Hamburg captain is the most experienced player in Louis van Gaal's Dutch squad with 109 international appearances, per Jack Wilson in the Daily Star.
However, the 62-year-old Van Gaal has been forced to leave the former Tottenham player out of his squad as he will not be able to recover in time for the summer's showpiece event.
Van der Vaart picked up the knock while training in Portugal on Tuesday with the rest of the Dutch national side, and he will be unable to appear in a third World Cup.
It is a huge blow for the Netherlands, beaten finalists at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, who are also without star man Kevin Strootman, who has not recovered from a torn cruciate ligament he sustained in early March, per Elko Born in The Daily Telegraph.
Born speculated that the likely replacement for Van Der Vaart will be PSV Eindhoven's Georginio Wijnaldum:
Rafael van der Vaart ruled out of Holland's World Cup. Calf-injury proved too serious. PSV's Georginio Wijnaldum will likely get his place.— Elko Born (@Elko_B) May 28, 2014
Van Der Vaart made 27 Bundesliga appearances for Hamburg in the 2013-14 campaign, scoring seven goals and bagging six assists, per WhoScored.com.
Van Gaal will be desperately hoping that this is the last injury setback his squad must endure as the Dutch face a tough challenge to even make it out of the group stages in Brazil.
Along with the holders Spain, they are joined in Group B by Australia and Chile, with their first game on June 13 marking a repeat of the 2010 final.
World Cup Groups. Group B looks the toughest: Spain, Holland,Chile and Australia. pic.twitter.com/Jyr5bnhD4w— The FootballQuandary (@FootyQuandary) May 27, 2014
They will hope to avoid a losing start to the tournament, which would put them on the back foot from the off in Brazil and could lead to an early exit.
Though their squad still boasts the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, few are expecting the Netherlands to go as far in 2014 as they did in South Africa.
There is an obvious fear that Van Gaal may be distracted from the job in hand having recently confirmed he will take over at Manchester United when the season is over.
However, while the loss of Van der Vaart is a big blow for the Dutch, they still have the quality to make an impact in Brazil and will pose a real opening challenge for Spain at this summer's tournament.