World Cup 2014 Group B preview: Spain v Netherlands
Six of the last seven meetings between World Cup holders Spain, now 13/2 third-favourites with Coral to retain their crown, and the Netherlands, 33/1 to improve on beaten finalists at the last tournament in South Africa, have been settled by a single goal margin.
La Roja start as odds-on favourites at 4/5 to beat the Dutch in the opener to Group B (they are also 8/11 to top this pool), despite winning one of the last five encounters with them. Former Barcelona boss Louis van Gaal, who will coach the Clockwork Orange until they bow out of the Brazil finals, is 9/2 to get one over ex-Real Madrid manager Vicente del Bosque here.
A draw – there’s been just one of those in nine previous meetings between Spain and the Netherlands – is priced at 23/10. Van Gaal has only retained five players that started the 2010 final, including Nigel de Jong (Xabi Alonso watch out!) and former Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt, with a further two unused substitutes from that day on the Dutch roster.
Chile and the Clockwork Orange are both rated equal 3/1 chances to pip La Roja to top spot in Group B, but are also odds-on at 8/11 respectively to join the reigning world champions in the knockout phase.
Netherlands national captain Robin van Persie looks to have put his injury problems during a difficult club campaign at Manchester United behind him. He will be a threat to Spain again, and has two goals in his last three starts for his country. Odds of 7/4 say RVP will punish them by scoring anytime.
Dutch success in South Africa was down to Galatasaray playmaker Wesley Sneijder’s exploits in front of goal. He will rack up a century of caps against La Roja, and is 5/1 to mark this milestone by adding to those five World Cup strikes at the last tournament.
Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben, like record scorer Van Persie, is in fine form for his country. Five international goals this season mean punters must consider him in the anytime market too at 2/1.
Continuity has been keen to the unequalled Spanish successes of recent years – a fact no better emphasised than the presence of nine starters for the South Africa final in Del Bosque’s ranks. A total of 16 players from the World Cup winning squad of 2010 are in Brazil too.
Brazilian-born frontman Diego Costa is a fresh face for La Roja at this tournament, however, and his decision to reject the Samba Boys for his adopted country is one of the most interesting sub-plots of these finals. Yet to break his international duck, odds of 4/1 say he will net the opener against the Netherlands.
Over half of Spain’s 67 tournament goals since the 2006 World Cup have been scored by either Fernando Torres or David Villa, though, and the fact Del Bosque has still included both is significant. Three of the last four occasions on which La Roja have netted saw one of this pair wheeling away in celebration too.
Torres is 5/4 for a goal against the Dutch anytime, while Villa is a more attractive 7/4. Andres Iniesta, the Barcelona midfielder that scored the winner in the final four years ago, is 7/1 to grab the opener.
Since being handsomely beaten by Brazil in last summer’s Confederations Cup final, Spain have lost just one of 10 matches, scoring twice in eight of those. They are 6/5 to get two or more here, and 13/8 to win to nil after three successive clean sheets.
A shut-out for Van Gaal’s Clockwork Orange is far less likely because he has made sweeping changes in defence. La Roja should be able to capitalise on the naivety of youth here. A repeat 1-0 scoreline victory for them from South Africa is priced at 17/4, but a 2-1 Spain win at 9/1 is a worthy outside bet because of the Dutch attack.