Spain v Holland – A Drawn Out Affair
Spain v Holland
A cagey opener for the teams expected to progress from Group B is definitely on the cards here.
Spain have lost only one of their last 36 competitive matches – the 2013 Confederations Cup final against Brazil – and completed preparations for this summer’s World Cup with 2-0 wins against Bolivia and El Salvador.
David Villa scored twice in the most recent outing against El Salvador, while Fernando Torres and Andres Iniesta – the man who scored the winner in the 2010 final against Holland – scored goals against Bolivia.
The nucleus of the Spanish team that has won the past three major tournaments – Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 – remains and Vincente del Bosque’s side go into Brazil 2014 as one of the firm favourites.
The Dutch also come into the game following successive victories in warm-up matches. A 1-0 win over Ghana thanks to Robin van Persie was followed by a 2-0 triumph over Wales courtesy of goals from Arjen Robben and Jermain Lens.
Louis Van Gaal’s men qualified as UEFA Group D winners with nine wins and one draw from their 10 games played. Van Persie was the top scorer in European qualification with 11 goals as Holland scored 34 times and conceded just five.
Diego Costa is likely to make his competitive debut for his adopted country and can expect some backlash from the locals inside the stadium.
As recently as March 2013 Costa was wearing a Brazil shirt in a friendly match against Italy in Geneva, before defecting to Spain six moths later much to the dismay of Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari and the Brazilian public.
There were concerns regarding the fitness of striker Van Persie as he was seen wincing while he walked down the tunnel at half-time in the Wales friendly. Van Gaal has, however, stated that he expects the striker to be fully fit for this one.
Spain won 1-0, after extra-time and after Johnny Heitinga was shown a red card, when the two sides met in the final of the 2010 World Cup.
It looked as though the tournament would be decided by a penalty shoot-out before Iniesta struck three minutes from time to give Spain the crown and deny the Dutch once more.
Holland have won the only other two meetings this century; 1-0 in 2002 and 2-1 back in 2000.
Spain are odds-on 5/6 favourites in the Match Odds betting, but that looks a little too short for my liking.
The Dutch (17/4), although far from being their strongest, were mightily impressive in qualification and have an astute manager in Van Gaal.
In a tough group, avoiding defeat will be the primary objective for both teams and a draw is mutually beneficial.
Goals are likely to be at a premium as the sides feel their way into the tournament. Under 2.5 is a shoo-in at odds of 1/2 and I’m not averse to backing the 0-0 scorelines in the Half Time Correct Score market at odds of 7/5 and in the Full Time Correct Score market at odds of 6/1.