A repeat of the famous (or should that be infamous) 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg, this game sees two European heavyweights go head to head. Euan Cunningham assesses the two sides chances in this match, and the tournament overall.
Despite having enough sheer quality in their squad to be able to leave out the likes of Santi Cazorla and Alvaro Negredo, some have suggested that Spain’s reign may be slightly on the wane. The old hands like Xavi, David Villa and Iker Casillas are all possibly just slightly past their prime, while the goal-shy Fernando Torres must once again be a case of concern for Vicente del Bosque. On the other hand, the afore-mentioned quality still stands out. Atletico Madrid’s unbelievable season has led to the inclusion of previously-unknown players such as Diego Costa and Koke (apparently wanted by Manchester United), and the established class of defenders such as Pique and Ramos is a reassuring presence at the back. And who could forget Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas (perhaps rejuvenated after today’s transfer to Chelsea) and Xabi Alonso, 3 of the finest ball-playing midfielders in Europe. While expectations will be dampened ever so slightly, the team should still be considered easily capable of winning the tournament.
Holland arrive in Brazil with slightly less exalted expectations to deal with from their faithful. They still possess the firepower of Van Persie and Robben up front and the smooth elegance of Wesley Sneijder in the middle of the pitch, but apart from that, there is a potential dearth of matchwinners for the Oranje. However, the main concern is the defence. Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar, a capable player in the Premier League but not a genuine world-class centre back, is their leader at the back, while the rest of the defence is made up of unknowns, home-grown players who so far have little or no experience of playing on anything approaching as big a stage as this. This will be a massive test for youngsters such as Stefan de Vrij and Joel Veltman. Vlaar must draw on his experience as a solid rock at the back for Villa and do the same here. While the Dutch should qualify along with Spain, they can by no means be confident of any further progression.
In my opinion the penetrative, eventually-deadly tika-taka of the Spanish will eventually carve the Dutch defence open at least once. While Holland will no doubt provide moments of brilliance and threaten Iker Casillas, I cannot see them getting a positive result here in all honesty. Spain to win 2-1 (note, must remove if Holland triumph).
Image courtesy of Wikipedia