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Clash of 2010 World Cup finalists in Group B

Updated: 2014-06-13 15:44
( Agencies)


Clash of 2010 World Cup finalists in Group B

Netherlands' Robin Van Persie attends a practice session at the Arena Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador, June 12, 2014, The Netherlands will play against Spain on June 13. [Photo/Agencies]

SALVADOR, Brazil - Four years ago Spain and the Netherlands played the World Cup final in South Africa, and on Friday both teams meet again in Salvador at their start of the 2014 World Cup.

Clash of 2010 World Cup finalists in Group B

Casillas: Netherlands will rely on their seasoned triangle 

Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 after extra-time in the 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg. It was Spain's first World Cup and the third time the Netherlands finished as runners-up. Now Spain hope to become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil 52 years ago (1962).

Times have changed in the past four years, but not that much for Spain. Vicente Del Bosque still is the head coach and he selected a total of 16 players from the 2010 squad. With an average age of 28 years and 91 days the Spanish squad is one of the oldest at the World Cup. Last year Spain were beaten 3-0 by Brazil in the Confederations Cup final, which could be a sign the reign of Spain is over.

"We still dominate matches and have a stable squad," Del Bosque reacted. "But our players are not selected based on results from the past. These players were named because we think we can win the World Cup with them. We are the world champions and we want to defend the title in the forthcoming weeks."

"The ambience in the squad is very good and we are very enthusiastic about it," he added. "Even though it is a huge responsibility to defend our title as world champions."

The squad of the Netherlands is one of the youngest of the tournament, with an average age of 26 years and 170 days. Only seven players were already present four years ago: Nigel de Jong, Wesley Sneijder, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Dirk Kuyt, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and reserve keeper Michel Vorm.

After the early exit at Euro 2012, which was won by Spain, new Dutch head coach Van Gaal chose to make room for the new generation by selecting many players of the Dutch Eredivisie. In qualification this approach proved to be successful with nine wins and one draw.

Although the Netherlands have rejuvenated the squad the key players are still Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder. Van Gaal even created a new system which suits those three players best. In the 5-3-2 system, or 3-5-2, he only started with during the World Cup preparation. The Dutch will have more defensive security and the front three more or less have a free role.

That was not the only reason to begin with a new system just before the World Cup. The other reason was the knee injury midfielder Kevin Strootman sustained, a key player in the 4-3-3 system the Netherlands played during qualifying.

The third reason is the strength of the first opponent in Group B, Spain. "That's true," Van Gaal told earlier this week. "We want to play as compact as possible."

Van Gaal made no secret of the line-up against Spain. During the final training session he played with his expected line-up. The only spot left open was the midfield position next to Nigel de Jong. Van Gaal admitted Jonathan De Guzman, who returned to group training last Sunday after a hamstring injury, will start instead of Jordy Clasie.

His Spanish counterpart Del Bosque was not willing to reveal his line-up. "We are playing a tough opponent," he said. "We will not make them any wiser. We'll start with eleven players who we think are the best team."

Del Bosque has no reason to deviate from the 4-3-3 formation that has won Spain three consecutive major tournaments. He will probably start with Diego Costa as central forward. The Atletico Madrid returned from hamstring complaints and could give the tiki-taka football of Spain a boost up front, by adding power and goals.

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