Defending champions Spain kick off their defence of the World Cup against the Netherlands at the Arena Fonte Nova in what is a sequel to the 2010 final.
Spain haven’t had the most difficult friendlies to contend with on their way to the tournaments opener and had two successful victories over Bolivia and El Salvador. The number one ranker side on the planet made easy work of the qualification campaign with an unbeaten run through all eight fixtures delivering six wins and a goal difference of positive eleven. While they seem to be pushing forward, their 3-0 defeat in last year’s Confederation Cup final will still be sitting in the back of their minds. This golden generation of Spanish talent will be looking to emerge victorious at a fourth successive major tournament but a tricky group and a potential draw against Brazil could be lurking even if they go through. Their squad are getting older now and this may be the last time they play consistently together.
The Netherlands meanwhile, on the losing side of that 2010 World Cup final, will be looking for revenge. They have recently walked through friendlies with Wales and Ghana but made it very hard for themselves against Ecuador on 21st May. They are, however, a team that always managed to maintain a competitive edge in major tournaments. Finishing second on three separate occasions, including 2010, they will still be full of hope despite a tough group which also contains Chile and Australia. Louis Van Gaal may be off to pastures new but his second spell in charge could end with a bang. It is fair to say that his setback, when the Netherlands failed to qualify in 2002, didn’t manage to hurt his reputation too much. A strong personality and a direct approach have seen him get the absolute best out of Robin Van Persie, who he’ll interestingly manage next season, but with Arjen Robben the only 100% fit ‘superstar’ in their squad you can see Chile quickly breathing down their necks.
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