Spain's opening World Cup match against Netherlands is probably the most awaited match of the Group Stages. The opening matches between the two is a replay of the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals, which Spain won 1-0.
Spain, currently ranked No.1 in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola rankings, will be looking forward to retain the World Cup trophy. If Spain are able to do so, they will be the third team ever to retain the World Cup (Italy and Brazil are the only teams to successfully retain the World Cup).
Spain have a stronger squad compared to their 2010 World Cup winning squad. Brazil-born Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa is the newest addition to Del Bosque's squad. The 25-year old striker has had incredibe performances in the 2013/14 La Liga season as he scored 27 goals in 35 league matches, which helped his club win their first La Liga title in 18 seasons. Costa decision to play for Spain over Brazil disappointed Luiz Felipe Scolari. However, Diego Costa remains a doubt for a starting place as he has been suffering from a hamstring problem, which resulted in him missing the title decider against Barcelona and the UEFA Champions League finals against Real Madrid.
Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal reunite with Xavi and Iniesta, who played under him when he managed Barcelona. Van Gaal, in an interview with FIFA.Com said : "I'm proud of my Barça protégées. I have great memories of them. and that's first and foremost because these boys are also very kind human beings. They haven't forgotten me, that's for sure, because they're talking about me still. They have developed themselves fantastically well since we worked together, and these boys - Iniesta, Xavi and the others - have for many years been the basis of this successful Barcelona side. So I am proud, and happy too, that I still have a good relationship with them. I saw these boys playing for Barça B and I brought them into the first team. This was the case with, for example, Valdes and Reina. They developed into top goalkeepers, as you can see at the moment. But I also brought on Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, and we shouldn't forget Thiago Motta, who you now see playing for the Italian national team. They all played in the youth team at Barcelona, I picked them out, and they have developed very quickly and to a very high level."
Here are some of the interesting stats prior to the match:
2 - Robin van Persie has scored a goal for the Netherlands in the two previous matches played on June 13. Charm.
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) June 13, 2014
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 13, 2014
63% - The Netherlands have won 63% of their World Cup matches located outside Europe, compared to 42% on European soil. Explorers.
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) June 11, 2014
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 11, 2014
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 11, 2014
2 - Spain have conceded a total of just two goals in their last 12 tournament games (Euros + World Cup combined). Masters.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 10, 2014
The Players to watch out for:
Arjen Robben: He is one of the best and one of the most experienced players in the Dutch squad. Facing Spain might revive his bad memories of his one-on-one miss in the 2010 World Cup finals, which resulted in The Netherlands' third World Cup finals loss. However, over the years, Robben has improved and even helped his club Bayern Munich lift the Champions League trophy in 2013 after scoring a late winner against Borussia Dortmund.
Robin Van Persie: The Manchester United striker will captain the Dutch side this World Cup. Van Persie is expected to lead the Netherlands from the front. He wll be supported by Robben in the wings and from Wesley Sneijder in the attacking midfield.
Sergio Ramos: The Spaniard will be high on confidence after Real Madrid's 'La Decima' Champions League glory. Ramos equalized the score in the dying stages of the match. Ramos' partnership with Pique will from a rock solid defence, which will give the Dutch a tough time.
Diego Costa: If fit to start, Costa is surely the man to watch out for. After helping Atletico Madrid win their first La Liga in 18 seasons, Costa will now be aiming for a World Cup trophy.
The match will kick-off at Arena Fonte Nova, in Salvador at 12:30 am IST.