World Cup Countdown: Coach backs Van Nistelrooy

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The Independent Football

Marco van Basten, the Dutch coach, is confident that Ruud van Nistelrooy can fire the Netherlands towards World Cup glory this summer.

The Manchester United striker's club career may be in limbo following his dramatic falling-out with his club manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, but he remains a major figure within the Dutch camp. A proven scorer over several years at the highest level in both the red of United and the orange of his country, Van Nistelrooy knows the pressure is on him to deliver in Germany.

For all the striker's problems at Old Trafford, Van Basten has shown he has faith in the 29-year-old's talents by deciding to let the Ajax prodigy Klaas Jan Huntelaar continue his development in the European Under-21 Championship rather than choosing to name him in his 23-man senior squad.

"I do not have any problems with Ruud," he said. "I am totally confident in his ability. Ruud is a person who likes to work hard and he likes to win. He is a very important part of our national team."

Van Nistelrooy said he will not get distracted by speculation over his future, maintaining that he will not consider his options until the World Cup is over.

The Ukraine captain Andrei Shevchenko last night said doctors would today shed more light on his World Cup prospects. The Milan striker's health has been a cause for concern as he has been sidelined with a knee injury since the start of the month. "I cannot push my treatment forward too quickly, " he said, adding that doctors in Milan "will examine me [today] and things will become clear on my plans and my hopes for the World Cup" . The striker is also expected to decide on his Milan future this week, with strong interest from Chelsea.

The Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz is confident of facing England in his side's opening World Cup match on 10 June despite suffering tendinitis to his right knee.

The Bayern Munich striker missed most of the Bundesliga season after undergoing an operation on the knee. "I was afraid it could have been a lot worse and so the diagnosis is something of a relief," he said. "The main thing is to make sure I'm ready for the first game."

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