Spain have won the last three international tournaments which they have taken part in. Victories in Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 is already an impressive track record, but this summer they are after immortal glory.
Victory in the land of the amazon would see La Furia Roja become the first nation to ever win back-to-back World Cup’s – to do so, they must first go through the Netherlands in their opening match in Salvador.
Potential bad blood between the two teams could come to the fore in this match. The pair of them squared off in the 2010 final that contained overly-aggressive play on both parts, including one of the worst “tackles” I have ever seen by way of Nigel de Jong’s flying boot to the chest of Xabi Alonso.
Never the less, these are two incredibly gifted sides and this should prove to be a fantastic match. Here now is our preview and predictions.
Projected Starting XI’s
Spain: Casillas; Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Juanfran; Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso; Andres Iniesta, Diego Costa, Pedro Rodriguez
Netherlands: Jasper Cillessen; Bruno Martins-Indi, Ron Vlaar, Stefan de Vrij, Daryl Janmaat; Nigel de Jong, Jordy Clasie, Jonathan de Guzman; Wesley Sneijder; Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben
Key’s for Spain:
- Dictating play in the midfield. The Netherlands are without both Kevin Strootman and Rafael van der Vaart. Spain must take advantage of that.
- Close down Arjen Robben and not allow him any sort of operating space on the right flank. Negating his ability to cut in centrally will be key.
- Exploiting the international inexperience of the majority of the Dutch back-line. They have cohesion at club level but unsure how that will translate that to the national team.
Key’s for the Netherlands:
- Keeping the supply lines to both Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben open for business. If the pair of them are influential, Spain are in trouble.
- Assuring that Nigel de Jong gives plenty of defensive cover for the back-four to allow them to settle into the match well.
- Survive the first 20minutes of the match. If the Dutch go down early, I’m not sure if they’ll be able to fight their way back into the match.
- Ron Vlaar v Diego Costa – Vlaar is the most experienced at the back for the Dutch, and he must keep Costa under control if the Dutch defense hopes to survive.
- Nigel de Jong v Xavi Hernandez – With Xavi looking to pull the strings (if he plays from the off that is), it is up to NDJ to make it tough for him all day.
- Sergio Ramos v Arjen Robben – With Robben likely to play along side Robin van Persie up top, Ramos must make sure to give zero ground to the Dutchman and his left foot.
Staff Match predictions
Drew – 2-0 to Spain. RvP and Robben risk being isolated up front as Busquets and Alonso add plenty of coverage for the back-line and thus disrupting the supply lines. Costa will be a lot to handle, and Spain have a ton of attacking depth off the bench to influence the match.
Young – 1-0 Spain. It will be a tight affair, with Spain dominating possession but shutting down the Dutch counter attacks. Even going with Diego Costa to net the winner in the 60th minute.
Luke – 3-1 Spain. There is far too much quality in the Spanish team, and far too much uncertainly about the Netherlands. So much attacking talent that the Spanish can bring to bear against the Dutch and exploit their weakness at the back.
**Be sure to join us for our LiveBlog coverage of Spain v Netherlands tomorrow starting at 2:30pm EST/11:30pm PST/7:30pm GMT – looking forward to seeing you all there!**