Friday's meeting at the Arena Fonte Nova between Spain and the Netherlands provides a unique opportunity for fans to get a re-match of the previous World Cup final in the next tournament's group stage. Both the Spanish and the Dutch are capable of lifting the World Cup trophy in July, but the first thing they have to do is get out of what will likely be a tough group.
La Furia Roja utilize a "Barcelona-lite" tiki-taka possession system that aims to defend through preventing their opposition from having the ball. It's frustrated and annoyed opponents over the past six years as Spain has won a World Cup and two straight European Championships.
Vincente Del Bosque will generally utilize a 4-3-3 formation with one deep-lying midfielder and two attacking minded kids behind an attacking front three. Spain's fullbacks will also get forward on a regular basis, helping to create some width in the attack. The offense isn't explosive -- they only score more than two goals in one qualifying match -- but it usually doesn't need to be if they're able to dominate the ball like they want.
The Netherlands are international soccer's version of the perpetual bridesmaid, having finished second in the World Cup three times,including in 2010 when they lost 1-0 to Spain in extra time. The Netherlands will likely play a 5-3-2 formation,with three central defenders and two wingbacks.
The Dutch are at their best when they're able to play a free flowing, attacking style, that's a joy to watch when it's working, and a bit of a mess when it doesn't. The interplay between Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben is essential to their success, but the egos don't always mesh properly.
Know the Basics
Know the Basics
Andrés Iniesta is easily one of the world's best attacking midfielders, but he's often overshadowed by the likes of Lionel Messi and Spain teammates Xavi Hernandez at Barcelona. When he's at 100% and involved in play, he's capable of taking apart nearly any defense with his precision runs, and laser accurate passing.
Iker Casillas spent most of the last season as Real Madrid's second choice goalkeeper, playing Champions League and cup matches, but riding the bench in league play. He's experienced, he understands how to deal with pressure, and knows what it takes to win the World Cup. Then again, he just doesn't seem like the same dominant force he was in the past. Despite Spain's desire to hold onto the ball, he will be tested, and they'll need him to be at his best in those moments.
Robin Van Persie struggled throughout the club season with injuries, but there's no question he's still one of the best strikers playing the game today. He scored 11 goals during qualifying, but was non-existent during the Netherlands disastrous Euro 2012 run. The Dutch will need RVP to be on form in order to get a result against Spain, and to advance out of the group.
Arjen Robben is a playmaker, a dangerous attack, a player capable of changing a match in a split second. He's also 30-years-old and has played a ton of games over the past few years. It appeared that time and injuries were starting to catch-up with Robben at time this season with Bayern Munich, so there's a lot of concern about how much proverbial gas he'll have in the tank.