Title holders Spain are ready to square off against 2010 finalists Netherlands in what seems to be the most anticipated match of the 2014 World Cup group stage. The final in South Africa consisted of numerous hard challenges, memorable highlights and an overall bad temper between two recognised sides and the only difference from tonight is that this will be just a group B match.
The Furia Roja are looking to make history and become the first and only team to win two back-to-back European championships and World Cups in just six years. Striker Diego Costa, who seems to be closing in on a Chelsea move, did not show any signs of pain during Tuesday’s practice and seems to have overcome his hamstring injury sustained at Atletico Madrid’s closing match in Camp Nou.
Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal will be hoping that striker Robin van Persie’s fitness is up to par after suffering a groin injury. The Manchester United player was also involved in a strange accident with a kitesurfer on Monday but got away with minor scratches and a headache. Nevertheless, The Oranje captain is very confident that he can perform and carry out his part during the competition.
KICK-OFF: Friday, 8pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Netherlands 0 Spain 1 (Iniesta), World Cup final, July 2010
Netherlands 1 (Frank de Boer) Spain 0, International friendly, March 2002
Spain 1 (Hierro) Netherlands 2 (Hasselbaink, Frank de Boer), International friendly, November 2000
This is only the second time these two sides will face off in the World Cup.
Spain have not conceded a single goal in their past three matches where they beat Italy, Bolivia and El Salvador. Netherlands are undefeated in their past three fixtures as they beat Ghana and Wales but drew Ecuador.
This is the first time ever where the same teams that played in the previous World Cup final will be squaring off in the group stage opening match.
SPAIN: Group B team profile
SPAIN: Group B team profile
1/5 How they qualified
Those who were expecting Spain's qualifying campaign to be a formality were in for a surprise, as Vicente Del Bosque’s side struggled to secure qualification, only doing so with a 2-1 win over Belarus in the final game. Drawn in a group that contained France, it was far from a comfortable campaign for the world champions, despite going unbeaten in their eight games. They finished three points ahead of Les Bleus and topped the group as a result, but they did score fewer goals, with just 14 in total. Pedro’s tally of four in eight games epitomised the lack of firepower in the side as the Barcelona man finished top scorer for La Roja, with Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo hitting three goals in just four games.
One of sharpest minds and most respected coaches in the game, former Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque has transformed the face of Spanish football. Granted, he has had some fantastic players to work with, but leading the nation to the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 is a special feat. He took over from Luis Aragones, who had lost just four of his 54 games in charge, and had just led Spain to their first European Championship title at Euro 2008. But Del Bosque was clearly not fazed by the task, becoming Spain’s most successful coach in their history, with his winning percentage just over 80 per cent. The 63-year-old has encouraged an attractive, attacking style of football which has seen Spain play some of the best passing football ever seen, and while the ‘tiki-taka’ style may have been started by Aragones, Del Bosque has prolonged its effectiveness.
3/5 Star man
Barcelona star Andres Iniesta is regarded as one of the world's top attacking midfielders, and has been instrumental to the dominance of Barcelona and Spain. While goals seem to come in clusters, with Iniesta never managing double figures for his club in a season, his assist tally continues to rise. World Cup Final win over the Netherlands three years ago, and remains a pivotal player under Del Bosque.
4/5 Emerging talent
Koke burst into European football’s collective consciousness last season in Atletico Madrid’s incredible La Liga winning season, which also saw Madrid’s second club reach the Champions league final. Koke, 22, is the youngest member of Spain’s 23-man squad, but his composed head in the centre of midfield belies his years. Koke has been linked with a move to Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona, but Los Rojiblancos chief Enrique Cerezo insists he is not for sale.
5/5 How they will line up (4-1-4-1)
Casillas, Azpilicueta, Pique, Ramos, Alba, Busquets, Fabregas, Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Costa
Robin van Persie is Netherlands' all-time top scorer. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas and striker David Villa have amassed the most caps and goals respectively than any other in the history of the Spain national team.
Louis van Gaal has won every major title available in Netherlands, Spain and Germany as well as the Champions League, UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. However, he has never won a trophy at international level.
Spain to win: 10.11
Holland to win: 4.1
TV: Live on BBC One at 8pm
Everyone remembers Andres Iniesta’s winning goal in the last World Cup final but the most shocking moment of that match was when Nigel de Jong karate kicked Xabi Alonso and only got away with a yellow card by referee Howard Webb.