New Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman is looking for his team to shine in his first match in charge against England this week, but admitted on Monday the Dutch had lost a lot of quality players in recent years.
Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder both recently retired from international football, while fellow veteran Robin van Persie is lacking match fitness.
Koeman said he would have to gamble with youth for the match in Amsterdam on Friday and then for their second game three days later in Geneva against Portugal.
“We have said goodbye to several creative players that you don’t just replace that easily. Now we have youngsters who still need to develop and only the future will tell if they are able to reach the same heights,” he told a news conference.
Koeman suggested the 34-year-old Robben would still have a role to play in the Dutch team had he not retired and added he was not ruling out a return for Van Persie, 34, once he proved his fitness at Feyenoord.
“He showed his class again yesterday,” Koeman said of the striker’s performance for his club on Sunday as he scored twice in a 4-3 win at PEC Zwolle in the Dutch league.
The 33-year-old Sneijder, who holds the Dutch record of 133 caps, quit the international arena earlier this month.
With Koeman having been appointed coach of the national side last month, the upcoming friendlies represent the first chance he will have to assess the scale of the job he has taken on.
“Of course, we are playing to win. For me, what is also important is that when we’ve played these two games, I’m a lot wiser about the direction we will be taking going into the Nations League,” he said.
“Friday and Monday’s games will give me the opportunity to see more players at work.”
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk could captain the side at the Amsterdam Arena on Friday, he added.
“I’m still going to decide, I’m not a believer in a vote among the players, so I will choose,” Koeman said.
“It does not mean I think there should be a new captain, but it must be someone who shines out in the squad and plays in a certain position. I don’t believe in either the goalkeeper or a striker being the captain. Virgil van Dijk is a possibility as captain.”
The Netherlands failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Russia, marking the first time they have missed the tournament since 2002.