Holders Spain will be out to prove everyone they are still the team to beat when they take on Netherlands in their opening World Cup fixture and edge closer to winning Group B. Meanwhile, Oranje aim to get revenge on La Furia Roja for the heartbreaking defeat in the 2010 World Cup final, but it is clear they are the underdogs here.
It was against the Netherlands that Spain won their first ever World Cup title, defeating Oranje in the 2010 final thanks to extra time goal by Andres Iniesta, and La Furia Roja hope their next match against the same opponents will pave the way for another successful tournament. Having also lifted the trophy at Euro 2008 and Euro 2012, Spain are searching for their fourth successive title at major tournaments, that is if we disregard the 2013 Confederations Cup that was won by hosts Brazil. Vincent Del Bosque’s side arrive at the World Cup finals in confident mood, having recorded 2-0 wins in final warm-up games against Bolivia and El Salvador, and the team seem completely prepared for what awaits them in Brazil. Their star-studded squad were further reinforced with Chelsea-bound Diego Costa and Atletico Madrid starlet Koke, and, once again, the boss is spoilt for choices in all areas of the pitch. And with most footballers playing an important part in winning the said three titles, chances are Spain will once again reach the final stages and possibly even defend the trophy. Their extensive experience should especially prove a valuable asset against youthful Netherlands side. With Jordi Alba overcoming a toothache, Vincent Del Bosque will have fully fit squad to choose from, although he is yet to decide whether Diego Costa or Fernando Torres will start up front.
The narrow defeat to Spain in the 2010 final ensured the Netherlands remain one of the sides that have never lifted a World Cup trophy, with Oranje losing a total of three finals. With the team crashing out of group stage at Euro 2012, national team bosses decided it was time for a change and appointed experienced coach Louis van Gaal to try and help the team return to old glory days. The boss surprised everyone by introducing a host of talented yet inexperienced players, but that approach worked as a charm as Oranje eased off to World Cup qualifying berth. However, their inexperience could prove to be a major issue when the team face the likes of Spain, Chile and Australia, so it remains to be seen how players from the Dutch Eredivisie will cope with playing at the highest stage. Louis van Gaal once again shocked everyone by changing the formation to 5-3-2 ahead of the final warm-up games, but his players seem to have adapted well to the new system. Nevertheless, with Spain clearly one of world’s strongest sides and always on top of their game, any mistake could prove costly in the opening match. Swansea star Jonathan de Guzman is set to start after recovering from a hamstring problem, whilst Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben will form the attacking partnership, with Wesley Sneijder acting as an attacking midfielder.
Spain did have problems outplaying Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup, but while La Furia Roja have remained at the forefront of world football since, Oranje have struggled to meet the expectations and they arrive in a Brazil with a very inexperienced side. Considering that star player Robin van Persie is not at 100%, Spain should have no problems winning this game.
Verdict: Home win Spain (1)
Best Odds: 5/6
Bookmaker: William Hill