It will be an epic tactical showdown between two of the most prominent managers in the world, not to mention how exhilarating it sounds to have a remake of the 2010 World Cup final on day one. The Group B opening clash would witness some quality matchups, with the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie on stage.
Vicente Del Bosque will have an embarrassment of riches when selecting his Spain XI, with the likes of David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata and probably Diego Costa poised to drop to the bench. Skipper Iker Casillas is a certain starter between the posts, while Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique are expected to be in the heart of defense, with Cesar Azpilicueta right and Jordi Alba left. Del Bosque’s preferred 4-3-3 will routinely include an intimidating midfield comprising Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso and Xavi.
Upfront, the left flank is probably reserved for 2010 final hero Andres Iniesta, while Barcelona’s Pedro – top scorer in qualifying – has always been trusted by Del Bosque for the right wing. While La Furia Roja’s footballing identity remains as clear as day, the big question is still how will Del Bosque manage his center of attack?
After scoring both goals in the final warm-up win over El Salvador, Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer David Villa could be given the nod ahead of Atletico Madrid mate Diego Costa, with the latter just recovering from injury last week. That said, the Brazilian-born Diego Costa – yet to make his competitive debut – will be Spain’s man to watch in Salvador, with plenty of other options for the holders in the second half.
The injury of key midfielder Kevin Strootman has hit the Dutch hard forcing manager Louis van Gaal to develop an uncommon 3-4-3 formation for the Brazil finals. With the mission of tackling Spain’s mesmerizing frontline, three men may be deployed at the back in Stefan de Vrij, Ron Vlaar and Bruno Martins Indi, with the inexperienced Jasper Cillessen in goal. The promising Daley Blind should be the man to fill the left wing-back role, with Daryl Janmaat on the other side.
Nigel de Jong is Van Gaal’s number one defensive midfielder as Premier League duo Leroy Fer and Jonathan de Guzman vie with Feyenoord youngster Jordy Clasie for the other midfield spot. While Van Gaal hopes his side will do their defensive homework, three men will be handed the task of inspiring the Dutch in attack – a formidable trio of Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.