Dutch can hold the World Champions in Salvador
Who can forget the 2010 World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands at Soccer City? Certainly not referee Howard Webb!
The top English official doled out a record 15 yellow cards and gave Dutch defender Johnny Heitinga his marching orders in extra time as the Spanish won an ill-tempered affair with a late goal from Andres Iniesta. So this promises to be a fiery start to the champions’ defence of their crown at the Arena Fonte Nova.
A number of the Spanish squad arrived in Brazil nursing injuries and, given recent history, won’t be expecting an easy ride against the Dutch. Vicente Del Bosque will have been monitoring his squad closely to see which players have recovered best from a tough La Liga or Premier League campaign with particular doubts surrounding Atletico Madrid pair Diego Costa and Juanfran.
But there is no doubt that the Spanish are a class act when at full strength. They are also, of course, reigning European Champions and the fact that Del Bosque has been able to leave the likes of Fernando Llorente and Manchester City pair Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas at home speaks volumes for the strength of their squad which does include fellow Premier League stars David Silva, Juan Mata, David De Gea, Santi Cazorla and Fernando Torres as well as European heavyweights Xavi, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso and Javier Martinez.
They will keep the ball for fun again but could be short of a finisher if Diego Costa isn’t fit, though should still make it through the group stages.
This is certainly the most mouth-watering clash in the first round of group stage matches, certainly from a European perspective, with attacking flair and star-studded Champions League regulars featuring in the line-ups on both sides.
The Netherlands don’t have a bad overall record against Spain and still feel aggrieved after that defeat in the final in South Africa. They took 28 points from a possible 30 in qualifying, scoring goals for fun with Robin van Persie leading the way.
Iker Casillas and his defence will have to keep a close eye on the fit-again Manchester United striker, who’ll be out to impress soon-to-be club manager Louis van Gaal overseeing his swansong as Oranje coach. The Dutch are definitely better going forward than defending and this is one of the most interesting first-round matches.
A draw wouldn’t be a disaster for either side and that can be backed at 23/10. It is Evens that the teams are level at half time.
The match kicks off at 8pm UK time on Friday, June 13th in Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador.