Spain v Netherlands: Vicente del Bosque's ageing defending champions start with a daunting replay of the 2010 final

Louis Van Gaal's young side will hope to upset one of the favourites

History suggests Spain’s reign of dominance must end sooner rather than later but coach Vicente del Bosque sounded a defiant note as the holders prepared to launch their World Cup title defence against Holland today.

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Del Bosque promised that there was still plenty of life left in a Spain side who have already achieved an unprecedented run of three consecutive major tournament triumphs. “We are not afraid of anyone or anything and are at our best,” he said.

“These players have been extraordinary and are not here for what they have done in the past. We have an Under-21 squad who have recently been European champions and we have renewed our squad.”

Spain will enter the 2010 World Cup final rematch with Group B rivals Holland at the Arena Fonte Nova with much greater experience than a Dutch side whose rejuvenation under Louis van Gaal is underlined by the fact just four of their confirmed starting XI have prior World Cup experience.

On the other hand, there is a lingering suspicion that Brazil 2014 might prove one tournament too far for the Spanish, given that a number of key players – Xavi Hernandez, David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Iker Casillas – are now into their 30s. Del Bosque dismissed the notion when he added: “We cannot say it is a veterans’ squad.

It is mature, a squad with depth, we have a few young players and a few who are 30 and a little over 30.”

Playmaker Xavi, 34, also denied that the era of tiki-taka belonged to the past – despite the end of Barcelona’s period of dominance in Spain and Europe. And he promised that Spain would “win or die” playing this way. “Our style of play is very clear,” he said.

“We want to dominate the game, keep possession of the ball. We have had this philosophy for a number of years and it would be mistake to change it. We are going to compete right to end, and will win or die with this style of play.”

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