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New Netherlands coach Hiddink recalls Afellay, Pieters, Van der Vaart

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AMSTERDAM - New Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink recalled midfielder Ibrahim Afellay for his team's opening European Championship qualifier against the Czech Republic and a warm-up friendly against Italy as he begins building on the legacy of Louis van Gaal's World Cup campaign.

Afellay, who is on loan to Olympiakos from Barcelona, has had an injury-plagued career since moving from PSV Eindhoven — where Hiddink gave him his first-team debut — to Barcelona. His last international appearance was almost two years ago.

Veteran midfielder Rafael van der Vaart and Stoke City defender Erik Pieters also are back in the Dutch squad for Hiddink's first matches since taking over from Van Gaal after the Netherlands' third-place finish at the World Cup.

Van der Vaart missed the World Cup through injury, but Hiddink still appears to want his experience in the squad alongside a player tipped by many as his long-term replacement, Ajax midfielder Davy Klaassen.

Hiddink's 25-man squad is based around the successful team beaten by Argentina in a semifinal penalty shootout in Brazil. Van Gaal's team then beat demoralized host Brazil 3-0 to earn third place.

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie is expected to keep the captain's armband and play up front alongside World Cup star Arjen Robben.

The Dutch play Italy in Bari on Thursday and take on the Czechs in Prague on Sept. 9 in their first Euro 2016 Group A qualifier.

The Italy friendly will be the first match in Hiddink's second spell in charge of the Netherlands. He previously led a talented young team to the semifinals of the 1998 World Cup in France, where it lost on penalties to Brazil.

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Squad:

Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Ajax), Tim Krul (Newcastle), Jeroen Zoet (PSV Eindhoven).

Defenders: Daley Blind (Ajax), Daryl Janmaat (Newcastle), Bruno Martins Indi (Porto), Erik Pieters (Stoke), Joel Veltman (Ajax), Paul Verhaegh (Augsburg), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa), Stefan de Vrij (Lazio).

Midfielders: Ibrahim Afellay (Olympiakos), Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord), Leroy Fer (Queens Park Rangers), Nigel de Jong (AC Milan), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburg), Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV).

Forwards: Memphis Depay (PSV), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Schalke), Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbahce), Jeremain Lens (Dinamo Kyiv), Robin van Persie (Manchester United), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)

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