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Netherlands forward Rob Rensenbrink dies at age 72

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Rob Rensenbrink, the forward who was centimeters away from delivering the Netherlands a World Cup title in 1978, has died at age 72, the Dutch football association said Saturday.

“We have heard with sadness of the death of football legend Rob Rensenbrink,” the association said in a tweet.

Rensenbrink played most of his club football in Belgium with Club Brugge and Anderlecht, where his weaving runs earned him the nickname “Snake Man.” He also played briefly for the Portland Timbers in the United States in 1980.

He was a regular for the Netherlands national team in its period of dominance in the 1970s.

He played 46 times and scored 14 goals for the Dutch team known for its slick, position-swapping “total football.”

But he will always be best remembered for the goal he didn’t quite score in the 1978 World Cup final.

With the scores tied at 1-1 between the Netherlands and host Argentina and the seconds ticking away in injury time of the final in Buenos Aires, Rensenbrink’s shot hit the post. The match went to extra time and Argentina scored twice to win 3-1.

It was the second straight World Cup final defeat for the Netherlands, which has appeared in three finals and lost them all.

Rensenbrink was diagnosed with a muscle disease in 2012 and died as a result of the illness, according to Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

Anderlecht said he died Friday night.

“Thanks for everything Robbie!” the Belgian club wrote on its website. “We will never forget you.”

USMNT announces March match vs. Giggs’ Wales

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Gregg Berhalter is set to match wits with Ryan Giggs when the United States men’s national team visits Wales this Spring.

The Yanks will visit Wales at Cardiff City Stadium on March 30, four days after visiting the Netherlands.

Wales and the USMNT are tied at 22nd in the FIFA rankings, though Wales is 25th in Elo Ratings to the Yanks’ 39th.

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“One of the important parts of continuing to develop this group is the opportunity to play against high-level opponents away from home,” Berhalter said in a press release. “The Netherlands is a soccer powerhouse featuring some of the world’s best talent. This game will be a good chance to compete as we build toward important competitions in the summer and fall.”

The two sides have only met once before, with Landon Donovan and Eddie Lewis scoring in a 2003 win.

Wales is preparing for EURO 2020, where it’s in Group A with Turkey, Switzerland, and Italy.

The next competition for the USMNT is this summer’s CONCACAF Nations League semifinal against Honduras. Mexico and Costa Rica are in the other semi.

Ajax’s Daley Blind has heart surgery

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Ajax and Netherlands star Daley Blind has undergone successful heart surgery after he was diagnosed with heart muscle inflammation.

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Blind, 29, felt dizzy Ajax’s defeat to Valencia 10 days ago and has been undergoing medical examinations ever since.

Th Dutch giants revealed details on Blind’s condition in a statement released on Saturday, as he is now recovering from the operation.

“Daley Blind has been diagnosed with heart muscle inflammation. The central defender has undergone extensive medical examination in recent days, following the dizziness that briefly bothered him during the Ajax – Valencia match. It was then decided to place a subcutaneous ICD with Blind, a device that is applied under the skin.

“As a result of this intervention, which took place yesterday, the 29-year-old international will not start the training camp selection at the beginning of January, but will continue to work on his recovery in Amsterdam.”

Van Basten banned for a week after Nazi comment

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Retired Dutch football star Marco van Basten has been benched for a week by Fox Sports for saying “sieg heil” on air.

Van Basten, working as an analyst, was off camera on Saturday when he used the German phrase for “hail victory” that became notorious for its use at Nazi rallies.

Van Basten, who made the comment after a German coach had been interviewed by a reporter, apologized later in the show.

Fox Sports said in a statement on Monday that it distanced itself from the comment, which the broadcaster called “stupid and inappropriate.”

Fox says it will not use Van Basten as an analyst this week and will donate his fee to a Dutch institute to promote knowledge about World War II.

Van Basten was a striker for Ajax and AC Milan and was one of the stars of the Netherlands team that won the European Championship in 1988.

After his playing career, he coached the Netherlands and other teams and was a senior official at FIFA.

Van Dijk leaves Netherlands squad for ‘personal reasons’

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Liverpool star Virgil Van Dijk has left the Netherlands squad for “personal reasons” and he won’t play against Estonia.

The Dutch have already qualified automatically for the EURO 2020 finals and a win in their Group C finale would give them a chance of being a top seed for the tournament.

In a statement on the Dutch FA (KNVB) website, they confirmed VVD won’t play for Ronald Koeman‘s Oranje on Tuesday in Amsterdam.

“The captain of the Dutch national team has to let go of the game due to personal circumstances and has since left the Orange training camp,” said the KNVB.

Van Dijk, 28, has led the Dutch redemption story under Koeman, as he was installed as skipper by his former manager at Southampton and has since gone on to be named among the top three players on the planet and was named Man of the Match in Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League final success against Tottenham in June.

The defensive lynchpin of the Premier League leaders had led the Dutch national team to their first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup and has restored some pride to the program after they failed to qualify for each of the last two major tournaments.

Liverpool travel to Crystal Palace on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) and Jurgen Klopp‘s defensive leader will now be well rested.

Whatever is going on with VVD’s absence it does allow him to have a few extra days off ahead of a gruelling set of games in November and December as Liverpool compete in the PL, Champions League, Club World Cup and League Cup.