World Cup 2014 Group B: Spain v Netherlands

By on June 13, 2014

The first game of Group B will be a replay of the last World Cup final which was played in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010 as La Roja get ready to face Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands. This is the first time the two World Cup finalists have met in the tournament directly after contesting the final since 1990, when West Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the final (after meeting each other in 1986).

The two sides met each other in the last World Cup final of which Spain have a lot of fond memories. It was a tight affair back in 2010 as the game went into extra time when neither side could break the deadlock in regulation time. The game looked set to be decided on a penalty shootout but Andres Iniesta decided otherwise. The Barcelona midfielder picked up Cesc Fabregas’ perfectly timed pass and slotted it home in the 116th minute of the game to give La Roja their first ever World Cup title. The Netherlands still have sour taste in their mouth from that defeat and will be hunting for revenge in this game. Four years on from the final, the fates of the two sides have traveled into opposite directions.

Spain, who are the current world champions, are looking to become the first ever side to retain the World Cup. Vicente del Bosque looks to create history
as he leads his men on to the pitch for their opening game of the tournament. The Spaniards have very fond memories from this specific fixture and they will have their eyes set on another victory against the Oranje. Spain started off their 2010 campaign with a defeat and although they ended up winning the World Cup, Del Bosque will not be keen on another similar start and will be looking to get all three points from the opening game. They are everybody’s favorites to top the group and it is agreeable that they will not face much difficulty in qualifying for the next round. However, as it is known, the team that finishes top of the group faces a second placed team from the next group in the knockout rounds and that is an advantage worth fighting for. With a win in this game, Spain will get a good grip over the group and will increase their chances of finishing on top as the subsequent two matches are relatively easier. Del Bosque will retain his 4-3-3 formation in this game and Spain will look to dominate the possession and frustrate the Oranje. Louis van Gaal fields a very cautious formation and the possession football might be the key to draw the Dutch players out of their defensive positions and then hit them when they are exposed as well all know that Spain can be very very patient in their build up. van Gaal will use five defensive players when off the ball so it is very important for the Spanish players to not lose their patience going forward. They might not get a lot of chances but they have to make the most of every chance they do get.

Vicente del Bosque certainly has the squad to do good in this tournament and many tip them off to become the first side ever to retain the World Cup. Spain is one of the sides whos squad has actually improved over the course of the four years since the 2010 World Cup. The South American weather might be their biggest hurdle in retaining the trophy and this will be a tournaent where Del Bosque’s player rotation might be tested to the limits. With the addition of Diego Costa to the Spanish national team, there is an increased attacking threat goind forward. The Atletico Madrid striker is very physical and has an astonishing work rate which would be key in breaking down those tight defenses. He offers Del Bosque’s side another avenue to attack th opposition.

Vicente Del Bosque has only lost one of his 25 World Cup games as Spain head-coach, including qualifiers (W22 D2). That was against Switzerland (0-1) in 2010. Plus, Spain have won their last six World Cup games, their best ever run in the tournament. Their last four games have ended in 1-0 wins. Spain have kept a clean sheet in each of their last four World Cup games, the longest current run. Only Italy (five games in 1990) and Switzerland (five in 2006 & 2010) have ever had a longer run in the competition.

Netherlands will be looking for revenge as they gear up to face the side that cost them the World Cup in 2010. The Spaniards beat them in extra time, thanks to a goal by Andres Iniesta, and cost them the World Cup in what was probably the ORanje’s best chance to win the title. Since that final in Johannesburg, where Spain have gone from strength to strength lifting the 2012 European Championship as well, Netherlands have actually deteriorated and they are now a shadow of the side they were in 2010. They had a great chance to win the World Cup in 2010 but donot face the same possibility in this year’s edition of the tournament. Louis van Gaal has done a good job with this Dutch side but the injuried and the unfit players that have failed to make the World Cup, plus the lack of World Class players coming up through the ranks mean that the Oranje will have to take this tournament one step at a time and not go ahead of theirselves. van Gaal used a 4-3-3 during their qualification rounds but due to injuries to Kevin Strootman and Rafael van der Vaart, two pillars of that 4-3-3, they will not use the same formation in the tournament. van Gaal will employ the recently used 3-5-2 with two wingbacks and three central defenders in order to limit La Roja’s control in midfield and two maintain a compact defensive shape when out of possession so as to frustrate the Spaniards. Spain will have most of the possession therefore, van Gaal’s best bet is to work on his team’s shape off the ball. If they can keep a strong defensive line in front of goal, then there’s a great chance that this could end in a stalemate and both teams get to share the spoils. They might not be the favorites to top the group but they are certainly favorites to finish second and qualify for the next round. A win in this one, could actually lead them to top the group.

This will be Louis van Gaal’s last tournament as the manager of the Dutch national side as according to reports, the Dutchman has agreed to join Manchester United as their head coach after the World Cup. Therefore, van Gaal will be looking to leave the job on a high not by doing well in the World Cup. The Dutch players will also be motivated as their is a chance that van Gaal might look to take the players who perform well in the torunament with him to Manchsetr United.

Netherlands have made it past the group stages in their last seven previous World Cup participations. Robin van Persie was the top scorer in the 2014 European World Cup qualifiers (11 goals) and if he can turn up in this game, then the Dutchmen might have a chance to nick all three points. Netherlands have scored at least 2 goals in their last 10 matches in FIFA World Cup.

Vicente del Bosque has a wide array of world class players to chose from but is expected to use his best XI. Jaunfran Torres is expected to start ahead of Cesar Azpilicueta. Although there are some doubs over his fitness, but Diego Costa completed 74 minutes in La Roja’s last friendly game and is expected to start this one. The midfield trio of Busquets, Iniesta and Xavi is expected to start with Pedro and Silva playing on the wings.

Netherlands will use Blind and Janmaat as the wingbacks with Vrij, Vlaar and Indi playing as the three central defenders. van Persie and Robben will start up front with Sneijder just behind them.

DATE: June 13, 2014

TIME: 8:00 PM BST

VENUE: Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Bahia

REFEREE: N. Rizzoli

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:
Spain (4-3-3):- Casillas; Alba, Pique, Ramos, Juanfran; Iniesta, Busquets, Xavi; Silva, Costa, Pedro
Netherlands (3-4-1-2):- Cillessen; Indi, Vlaar, Virj; Blind, Jong, Guzman, Janmaat; Sneijder; Robben, van Persie

RECENT FORM:
Spain:- W W W
Netherlands:- L D W

AUTHOR’s PREDICTION: Spain 2-1 Netherlands

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