It took 117 minutes for Spain to create history in beating Holland and winning the last World Cup but in their rematch in tonight’s group stage they can get the job done inside just the 90 and take the three points in what could be a cracking opener.
The match 4 years ago was an ugly spectacle that was not fit for the purpose of a World Cup final but 4 years on it is Spain who look the stronger and ready to once again try and fight off all comers in an attempt to create history again and win a fourth international trophy.
The Dutch were a compact side at the World Cup of four years ago but since a disastrous Euro 2012 campaign – ominously in a group of death – the quality od their defenders has subsided greatly, evidenced by the fact that none of the backline that started the 2010 final is taking to the field.
Infact none of the back 5 – with Louis Van Gaal playing a 5-3-2 formation after the loss of Kevin Strootman to a knee injury – have more than 29 caps to their name and the most experienced defender of those is Ron Vlaar, who was coinsestenly exposed by mid table sides and relegation candidates as Aston Villa struggled to stay up. The other 5 – Daley Blind (himself being played outside of his best position), Bruno Martins Indi, Stefan De Vriji and Darryl Janmat – played for a Feynoord team that let in more goals than Eeredivisie league winners Ajax or third placed FC Twente, which does not bode well for this vast step up in class.
While it’s true that they did play through the qualifiers, this system being implemented is a relatively new one and has yet to be tested in competitive football against a side that is ranked higher than 32nd in the world and this Spain side is a massive step up on the likes of Romania and Holland.
The Spanish qualified for Brazil without too many problems, being held to a 1-1 draw by France but winning the return leg in Paris, and they have enjoyed a smooth run towards the finals, winning their last 4 friendlies including two warmups in Miami, and also being able to bring Diego Costa back to full health following two aggravations of his injury in the La Liga title decider and Champions League final.
Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquests will provide a tough defensive shield through clockwork like possession towards a back four that boasts Champions League winner Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique – with 177 caps between the pair of them – in their ranks while outside of those two Jordi Alba is likely to provide pace along with Cesar Azpillcueta, coming off a remarkable season with Chelsea. They will need to be alert to stop Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben, although Holland would like Wesley Snedijer to find some better form than he has shown for Galatasaray so far and they may lose out in the battle for the ball in the middle of the park like they did four years ago – and Spain loo far better equipped to go onto glory today.
2 pts Spain (20/23 Bet Victor)