WHILE Holland have spent four years evolving in their grim pursuit of revenge over Spain, the world champions are confident they can defend football’s greatest prize using a six-year-old blueprint.
Andres Iniesta’s extra-time goal at Soccer City in July 2010 denied the Oranje victory in the World Cup final and saw Spain follow up their triumph at Euro 2008 with ascension to the top of the world game.
Coach Vicente del Bosque even delivered a third trophy in 2012 as Spain trounced Italy to clinch the European title once again, this time in Kiev.
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The 63-year-old’s latest assignment demands he guides La Roja to a successful defence of the trophy they won in South Africa with a group of players labelled by some critics as “veterans”.
But speaking ahead of this evening’s showdown with Holland in Salvador, Del Bosque rejected that tag, insisting the 23 men he has taken to Brazil represent a potent blend of maturity and fearless promise.
He told a press conference: “The World Cup starts now. If we can concentrate throughout 21 days then hopefully we will live up to the standards required of a world champion.
“I don’t think this is a team of veterans, I’d say we’re mature.
We’re simply not afraid of anything and that’s not just because of our past successes.
“I’m not worried about the future either. Looking at the Under-21 team I think we can have high expectations.
“Holland have changed a lot over the last four years, but we have not.
“Holland have a great school of football and have always had good World Cups.
They are worthy rivals.
“I hold (coach Louis) Van Gaal in high esteem and I’m sure he’s prepared well for the game.”
Spain must later face Chile and Australia in Group B and Barcelona midfielder Xavi admitted he would have readily coped without dancing around the physicality of the Dutch in the opening fixture.
“We arrived here with a lot of enthusiasm even though we know the group will be very difficult,” he said.
“Starting off against the previous runners-up is not easy.
“But we got here by remaining faithful to our style and so it will continue. Hopefully our style of play will bring us more success.”
Holland are more streetwise now than when they tackled Spain in the 2010 final, according to captain Robin van Persie.
It was a third loss for Holland in the biggest game of them all, but Van Persie believes the current squad have come a long way since.
“Spain have a fantastic team, with players like Diego Costa and (goalkeeper) David de Gea, and in my opinion have the best team in the world,” Van Persie said.
“But we are also very good, so don’t forget that and do not underestimate Holland.
“Although as a squad, we may be much younger than four years ago, there are also lots of opportunities.
“We have to prove ourselves again, but it is also a great challenge.
“In the past, what we often saw were jokes being made (within the squad) at the beginning, but now I think that is less and this is purely because of our focus.’’