By Paul Kennedy
Dutch coach Marco van Bastensaid he regrets publicly criticizing struggling star Ruud van Nistelrooy.
"Regret is a big word," van Basten said before the Oranje's match against Portugal, "but what I did was not correct to the player."
The Manchester United star had been substituted during all three group games, and van Basten hinted that Dirk Kuyt might start at center forward against the Portuguese, saying the position was "a point of discussion."
"We might expect more from Ruud," van Basten said on Thursday. "He has to play a bigger role in our attack."
Van Basten admitted he should have first talked to van Nistelrooy, who was not pleased with his coach's remarks.
Van Basten says others in the Dutch lineup must step up against Portugal.
"We've a solid team," he said, "and now we need some offensive power, but that has to come from the whole team."
IN AND OUT.
Both teams rested players carrying yellow cards for their third game of group play. Those players should return to the starting lineup. Khalid Boulahrouz should take over at right back for Johnny Heitingain the Dutch lineup.
Portugal has the Oranje's number. It beat the Netherlands, 2-1, in the semifinals of Euro 2004 and swept both games in qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. Portugal has lost only once in 10 meetings.
Portugal (4-5-1):1-Ricardo (52 caps-0 goals); 13-Miguel (31-1), 16-Ricardo Carvalho (27-1), 5-Fernando Meira (33-2), 14-Nuno Valente (25-1); 6-Costinha (46-2), 18-Maniche (34-5) 7-Luis Figo (123-32), 20-Deco (36-3), 17-Cristiano Ronaldo (34-12); 9-Pauleta (84-47).
Netherlands (4-3-3): 1-Edwin van der Sar (112 caps-0 goals); 3-Khalid Boulahrouz (14-0), 13-Andre Ooijer (22-2), 4-Joris Mathijsen (10-0), 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst (59-3); 18-Mark van Bommel (39-7), 20-Wesley Sneijder (26-5), 8-Philip Cocu (100-10); 17-Robin van Persie (13-2), 9-Ruud van Nistelrooy (54-28), 11-Arjen Robben (22-7).
Referee: Valentin Ivanov (Russia).
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England was supposed to bring Wayne Rooneyback from his foot injury slowly, but he suddenly takes on a leading role in England's match against Ecuador on Sunday.
After being out almost seven weeks due to a broken foot, Rooney played 32 minutes in England's 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago and 69 minutes of the 2-2 tie with Sweden. He could be called upon to play the whole game as the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation against Ecuador.
"I hope he's ready for 90 minutes," said England coach Sven Goran Eriksson,"but it's only the match that will decide that."
Michael Owen is out of the World Cup with a knee injury, and giant Peter Crouchhas struggled. England's only other frontline option is 17-year-old Theo Walcott.
Ecuador coach Luis Fernando Suarez says Rooney is the player he fears the most.
"He's very fast in the last quarter [of the field]," said Suarez, "and it's difficult to disturb his movements with or without the ball. We must pay attention to him. He can make a difference at any moment."
IN AND OUT.
Carlos Tenorio and Agustin Delgado, who were so impressive in Ecuador's first two games, return after sitting out the last Group A game against Germany. Also back are captain Ivan Hurtado and Neicer Reasco on the backline and midfielder Segundo Castillo. Midfielder Steven Gerrard, who came off the bench and scored against Sweden, should return to the England starting lineup in place of Owen Hargreaves. Gerrard could also come on for struggling Peter Crouch with Michael Carrick coming on as a fifth midfielder in a defensive position.
England and Ecuador have never met. Under Coach Sven Goran Eriksson, England has won six of seven meetings against South American opponents. Its lone loss was a 2-1 defeat to Brazil in the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup.
England (4-4-2):1-Paul Robinson (24 caps-0 goals); 15-Jamie Carragher (27-0), 5-Rio Ferdinand (50-1), 6-John Terry (27-1), 3-Ashley Cole (49-0); 7-David Beckham (92-16), 8-Frank Lampard (43-11), 4-Steven Gerrard (45-9), 11-Joe Cole (35-6); 21-Peter Crouch (10-6), 9-Wayne Rooney (31-11).
Ecuador (4-4-2):12-Cristian Mora (11 caps-0 goals); 4-Ulises de la Cruz (87-5), 3-Ivan Hurtado (132-5), 17-Giovanny Espinoza (59-2), 18-Neicer Reasco (33-0); 8-Edison Mendez (67-10), 20-Edwin Tenorio (71-0), 14-Segundo Castillo (13-1), 16-Luis Antonio Valencia (20-3); 11-Agustin Delgado (70-31), 21-Carlos Tenorio (31-7).
Referee:Frank De Bleeckere (BEL).
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