Three games today to take our pick from, but there’s one that’s clearly a bigger fixture than the others. In a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final, meaning this is the second straight World Cup game that they’ve played one another in, Spain will take on the Netherlands in Salvador this evening at 8pm on BBC One.
The filling in a fixture sandwich including Mexico vs Cameroon and Chile vs Australia, there will be high expectations of both sides to play out an entertaining match, which doesn’t really correlate with how the 2010 final actually went. Spain, as is their wont, strangled possession, and the Dutch approached the game with all of the thuggish ambition of Stoke City under Tony Pulis.
This time around, however, Louis Van Gaal has shuffled his Dutch pack and tinkered with his formation, while Spain remain virtually unchanged from the side who have dominated every competitive matched they’ve played for the last six years.
Van Gaal has evolved his side, and is now focussing on younger, homegrown talent where he can, deploying a 3-5-2 formation. This is much different to all out attacking nature of total football we’ve been previously sold, but seems to be working for him given how well they qualified. However, not to disappoint a tired cliche, there have already been stories of infighting from the Dutch camp, and we’re all aware of their fondness to implode.
Spain are still Spain, but perhaps with a little more bite up front should Diego Costa play from the start. Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta and the rest know how they want to play, know how they can win, and have the experience of doing so across so many different tournaments now that the somewhat premature backlash against their chances seems more than a little daft.
This is, without a shadow of a doubt, a massive match. Both sides want to make an impression on the tournament, with the Dutch wanting to prove that they’re now back to their best after a shocking Euro 2012 campaign, and Spain will want to set their stall out nice and early, showing everyone that they’re back to retrain their title. Both sides will also be well aware of the threat of Chile in their group, and will want to avoid a pressure match against them at all costs by winning tonight.
Two of the finest nations in European football history facing off in only the third game of the tournament, at prime time, and with some of the best players in world football to call on too. Apologies to everybody else involved today, but their was only ever going to be one game of the day today.