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World Cup

  • June 13, 2014
  • • 20:00
  • • Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Bahia
  • Referee: N. Rizzoli
  • • Attendance: 48173

Spain-Netherlands Preview: Dutch bid to avenge 2010 final defeat

The Roja boss has a predictable wealth of talent to choose from but faces a dilemma over whether to play a false nine or trust that Diego Costa has fully recovered

By Mark Doyle in Salvador

Spain boss Vicente del Bosque has a striking dilemma ahead of Friday's Group B showdown with Netherlands in Salvador.

Diego Costa has declared himself “fully fit” for what is a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final, having seen his participation in the climax of Atletico Madrid's season repeatedly interrupted by a hamstring problem.

However, although the Brazil-born forward has long been touted as the answer to Spain's lengthy search for a reliable goalscorer, Costa could be left on the bench against the Dutch, given Del Bosque's propensity for playing with a 'false nine' against a five-man defence.

Consequently, Cesc Fabregas, despite doubts over both his form and his Barcelona future, could once again start up front, just as he did during Euro 2012.

Del Bosque, though, also has the option of fielding either Euro 2008 final hero Fernando Torres or Spain's all-time record goalscorer David Villa, both of whom have impressed in recent friendlies.

Spain also have a decision to make at the back. Gerard Pique has long been a first-choice central defender, but the indications are that the versatile Javi Martinez will be given the nod alongside Sergio Ramos at the heart of La Roja's defence, with Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back.

As for Netherlands, Jonathan de Guzman's hamstring problems look set to result in Jordy Clasie being paired with Nigel de Jong at the base of midfield.

Indeed, although the 2010 runners-up played 4-3-3 during their qualification campaign, coach Louis van Gaal has employed a more defensively minded 5-3-2 formation since losing dynamic midfielder Kevin Strootman to injury against France in March.

Consequently, Ron Vlaar is set to be joined by Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi in a three-man central defence, with Daryl Janmaat and Daley Blind acting as wing-backs.

Players to watch


Position: Midfielder

Games: 0

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On Friday we will discover whether or not reports of Xavi’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The pass master is coming off an underwhelming campaign with Barcelona and, at 34, there are those that believe that the man who makes ‘tiki-taka’ tick is a fading force. Even Xavi has already identified Atletico youngster Koke as his heir. However, he is not ready to abdicate just yet and a game against what is likely to be a compact and abrasive Dutch side will tell us much about whether Xavi is still capable of prising open the tightest of defences.

R. van Persie

Position: Attacker

Games: 0

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Robin van Persie says he has been playing with one ailment or another for six years now, which begs the question: just how good would he be if he were completely injury-free? The forward may have had an underwhelming season for Manchester United but, at international level, he is playing under a coach who knows how to get the very best out of him. Van Persie hit 11 goals in qualifying and with the Dutch having now switched to 5-3-2, partly in an attempt to give him and Arjen Robben more space in which to work, he is eminently capable of showing Spain the benefits of having a truly world class centre-forward.

Editor's Prediction

While this game should be more aesthetically pleasing than their often brutal encounter in Johannesburg four years ago, the Dutch will once again set out to frustrate. Van Gaal’s decision to switch to 3-5-2 is essentially an admission that Netherlands are defensively vulnerable and the extra man, coupled with the presence of two defensive midfielders, should bring some solidity to Oranje’s soft centre. However, Spain will dominate both possession and territory and though the Dutch will be a threat on the counter, just as they were in 2010, Del Bosque’s men should do just enough to gain another narrow win.

Last Five Matches

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Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Spain ESP
Spain Spain
Netherlands NLD
Netherlands Netherlands

Top 3 Predictions

Spain ESP
2 - 1
Netherlands NLD
Spain ESP
1 - 2
Netherlands NLD
Spain ESP
1 - 1
Netherlands NLD