FIFA WC: Dutch Depay fit but might not start opening game

Netherlands striker Memphis Depay has declared himself fit for the World Cup, alleviating concerns that he might miss the tournament in Qatar, although he is not certain to start their first game on Monday.

Depay trained with the team, who put in a session on Tuesday just hours after arriving in Qatar for the tournament, having struggled with a hamstring injury for two months.

“Training has gone very well. I could do everything I do in a match, only then of course you go full for 90 minutes, over longer distances,” he told reporters.

Depay must now wait to see whether Louis van Gaal risks starting him against Senegal in their opening Group A match.

Van Gaal places high value on player fitness but in the build-up to the World Cup made clear he would make exceptions in picking Depay and his Barcelona colleague Frankie de Jong, who Van Gaal regards as the team’s most essential players.

The coach last week did say said Depay might have to come off the bench against Senegal.

“It’s not really about whether I agree with the national coach,” said Depay in response. “It’s about his vision, about what’s best for the team and for me. I want to contribute, not one game, but the whole tournament. I also have to be honest: sometimes I need to be protected from myself a little. I want so much.”

Depay hurt his hamstring playing for the Dutch against Poland in the Nations League in September and his recovery took longer than expected.

“Mentally that has been tough.. I’ve struggled the past few weeks, but I’ve done everything I can to get fit. That’s part of being an athlete, it’s my job. But there is more to it than just training, especially mentally,” Depay added.

Kolo Muani replaces injured Nkunku in France’s World Cup squad

Eintracht Frankfurt striker Randal Kolo Muani will replace RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku in the France squad for the World Cup in Qatar, the French federation (FFF) said on Wednesday.

Nkunku was ruled out of the tournament after leaving Tuesday’s training session early with a left knee injury. A video circulating on social media showed Nkunku clash with team mate Eduardo Camavinga.

Kolo Muani, 23, has made 23 appearances for Frankfurt in all competitions this season, scoring eight goals and recording 11 assists. He made his first two senior appearances for France in September’s Nations League games against Austria and Denmark.

“The Eintracht Frankfurt striker, currently in Japan with his club, will join the French team in Doha on Thursday morning,” the FFF said in a statement.

France will be in Group D in Qatar with Australia, Denmark and Tunisia. They start their campaign against Australia on Nov. 22 at the Al Janoub Stadium.

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