Wesley Sneijder breaks Netherlands caps record

Wesley Sneijder has ended Edwin van der Sar's 4,002 day run as the Netherlands most capped international, making his 131st appearance in the 5-0 defeat of Luxembourg.

Wesley Sneijder has celebrated his 33rd birthday by ending Edwin van der Sar's 4,002-day run as the Netherlands most-capped international, making his 131st appearance in the 5-0 European Qualifiers win against Luxembourg in Rotterdam and marking the occasion with a goal.

The attacking midfielder made his Oranje debut in a 1-1 friendly draw with Portugal in Eindhoven on 30 April 2003, when aged just 18 and still playing for Ajax. Dick Advocaat, who has just returned as Netherlands coach, was also in charge at the time.

Sneijder would score the first of his 31 international goals in his next game, a UEFA EURO 2004 qualifier against Moldova in October 2003. UEFA EURO 2004 was his first major final tournament, with his most successful being the 2010 FIFA World Cup where the Netherlands finished runners-up.

The Netherlands' most-capped players
131: Wesley Sneijder
130: Edwin van der Sar
112: Frank de Boer
109: Rafael van der Vaart
106: Giovanni van Bronckhorst
104: Dirk Kuyt
101: Phillip Cocu
101: Robin van Persie
92: Arjen Robben
87: John Heitinga
87: Clarence Seedorf  

Sneijder winning his second cap in October 2003
Sneijder winning his second cap in October 2003©Getty Images

Sneijder on his international debut ...
"It was on Queen's Day [30 April – the national celebration for the former Queen Beatrix], also under Advocaat. In that sense, things have come full circle now." 

Sneijder on his best Netherlands match ...
"That is so hard for me to say now. Believe me, I remember it all. But that is more something to look at after my career."

Sneijder on his favourite Netherlands team ... 
"At EURO 2008 we played our best football. At the 2010 World Cup, it was mainly our results that were good. No, that World Cup final defeat was not my biggest disappointment. That would be the qualifying defeat against Turkey that made us miss EURO 2016 in France. That still hurts."

Sneijder on being a Dutch record-holder ...
"A hundred and thirty-one international matches: that is quite a lot. Edwin van der Sar reached 130, but he was a goalkeeper. They usually play all the games and have long careers. My record will stand for a while, I think."


A new kid in town
Netherlands 6-0 Scotland, 19 November 2003
The Dutch were in danger of missing out on UEFA EURO 2004 after losing the first leg of their play-off 1-0 in Glasgow. In response, coach Advocaat brought the then 19-year-old Ajax midfielder into his side for the return in Amsterdam, a move described by the BBC as a "masterstroke". Sneijder fired only his second international goal to open the scoring, and set up three others in a one-sided performance. He had truly arrived on the big stage.

The perfect counter
Netherlands 3-0 Italy, 9 June 2008
At UEFA EURO 2008, Italy were trailing the Netherlands 1-0 when they forced a corner. Giovanni van Bronckhorst cleared the resultant header off the line, and the diminutive left-back then collected the ball on the overlap, stormed deep into the Italian half before delivering a diagonal cross for Dirk Kuyt – whose first-time header was hooked acrobatically beyond a flailing Gianluigi Buffon by Sneijder. From almost 1-1 to 2-0 in less than 10 seconds, this was counterattacking at its finest.

Head first
Netherlands 2-1 Brazil, 2 July 2010
Sneijder was in the form of his life during the 2009/10 season. Fresh from helping Internazionale Milano to a historic treble that included a UEFA Champions League final triumph against Bayern München, he took the World Cup in South Africa by storm. Voted man of the match against Denmark, Japan, Brazil and Uruguay, he ended with five goals and the silver ball as the tournament's second-best player. His quarter-final winner against Brazil was especially remarkable because it was, by his own admission, the first he had ever scored intentionally with his head.

Wesley Sneijder remains an influential presence
Wesley Sneijder remains an influential presence©Getty Images

The one that got away
Netherlands 0-1 Spain, 11 July 2010
It was not just Sneijder's goals that made him stand out in South Africa. With his close control, extraordinary speed of thought and ability to pass with either foot, he was the fulcrum around which the Dutch team thrived. During the final against Spain, just after the hour mark, he picked up a loose ball inside the centre circle and measured an immaculate pass through the heart of the Spanish defence that left Arjen Robben face-to-face with Iker Casillas. Sneijder had done his part, but Robben could not quite do his – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Never giving up
Netherlands 1-1 Turkey, 28 March 2015
Sneijder's display against Turkey was by no means one of his most memorable, but it was fascinating to see the 30-year-old perform the role of elder statesman. In the first half particularly, he could be seen coaching younger players like Memphis Depay by pointing, cajoling and barking instructions. And while he may not be as quick as before, the determination and energy are still there in abundance. It was his shot in the dying seconds that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar headed beyond Volkan Babacan to salvage a point and keep the Oranje's UEFA EURO 2016 campaign alive.