Four years ago, Andres Iniesta’s goal in the 116 th minute catapulted Spain to its first World Cup title over Netherlands in a 1-0 victory in South Africa. On Friday, the former finalists meet in the opening Group B match at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil.
Manager Louis van Gaal’s squad was denied its first World Cup title after the nation’s third trip to the final in the tournament’s history, but brings back most of its attacking stars from 2010 including Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. However they are only three of seven to make the return trip.
Hoping to be the third nation to ever win consecutive World Cups, though not necessarily favored to do so, Spain will once again send out the likes of Iniesta, David Villa, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi and all-world keeper Iker Casillas.
The two sides will play for the 11 th time during the World Cup, with Spain holding the 5-4-1 advantage and 16 goals to 11 for the Dutch.
Expect a match similar to 2010’s final, with Spain’s lightning quick attacks meeting a fortified Dutch backline and netminder Michel Vorm, who believes Holland still has enough experience in the attack to compete in Brazil.
“Arjen Robben had an amazing season with Bayern Munich, [Robin] Van Persie has done very well for the national team, Wesley Sneijder is playing his 100th game against Spain,” Vorm said to The Guardian, “Nigel de Jong is very important as well. That is so much experience and so much quality.”
Vorm also said reliving Robben’s missed opportunity in the 60 th minute that could have put the Dutch on top and changed possible altered the landscape of the final four years ago is an experience he prefers to avoid, but stressed Holland are not out for revenge.
To his credit, albeit with an odd choice of words, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque stressed his team is capable of adapting should Holland rehash its physical play from Johannesburg.
“We are not Talibans with just one way of playing,” Del Bosque told Marca. “Possession without having depth doesn’t have any point. For that reason we are working so that the team can pressure to win back possession and then as a group attack.
“Football is played in many different ways and there isn’t just one. We don’t have a magic formula, we have a plan based on the players that we have available. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t others who are just as good and give results.”
The ability to adapt is certainly a skill any team needs to exceed in the topsy-turvy tournament, but that pales in comparison to the need of a healthy squad. Born in Brazil but opting to play for Spain, striker Diego Costa, who helped Atletico Madrid capture La Liga last month, believes his injured left hamstring has healed but his health will be a continued concern throughout the tournament.
Betting Odds: Spain -1/2
Over/Under: 2 goals
Prediction: Spain 1-1 Netherlands