After a year without a cap, Ryan Babel is back in the Dutch national squad. The 24-year-old winger was recalled to the national team for the upcoming friendlies against Switzerland and Germany. Oranje will face the Swiss in Amsterdam on Friday and the Germans in Hamburg four days later.
“It’s good to be back,” says Babel, shivering slightly after his first training session on a chilly autumn evening. “It’s nice to catch up with the lads again. Of course it gives me a lot of confidence to be here.”
Babel says he watched Holland’s performance this past year with a mixture of interest and regret: “I followed them closely and most of the matches were enjoyable to watch. But I had mixed feelings too because I wasn’t there to make a contribution. But now I’m here and I’ll try to stay here.”
Comparing the current squad with the one before last year’s World Cup, Babel sees quite a few changes:
“The line-up is different, with a couple of new players in key positions. And staff has changed too. But our style of play and our mission remain the same. The current generation of players is excellent and so we’re aiming for the top.”
In January, Ryan Babel left the Liverpool substitutes bench for a regular first team position at Hoffenheim in Germany. The transfer, he hoped, would help him re-gain his place in the national squad.
“I’ve worked hard at Hoffenheim [Five goals in 25 matches so far, ed.] and I’m glad I’ve now earned my presence here. I now have to perform within this group and repay the Holland manager for the confidence he’s given me.”
Babel is looking forward to the two upcoming friendlies, particularly the one against Germany.
“That will be a special match for me, because I know most of the players now. I’m sure it will be very exciting to watch.”
Babel’s Hoffenheim teammate, fellow Dutch international Edson Braafheid, has a wager going with Hoffenheim’s German players. He’ll wear a black and white strip for two days if Germany win and his German teammates will wear the Netherland’s orange kit if Holland wins. No betting for Babel, though.
“The German players are very confident, but I told them ‘I’ll speak to you after the match, and hopefully I can comfort you.’”