SPAIN: Even with Jesus Navas and Álvaro Negredo dropped from the squad, Spain’s starting eleven is likely to give manager Del Bosque a headache when choosing attacking spots.

Costa, Villa, Pedro and Silva are all contenders if he chooses a top three, as well as Fernando Torres as a further option.

From their warm up matches it would appear that they are trying a range of options, leaving Costa as a lone target if they need to switch to a more defensive 4-5-1.

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The Northern Echo:


Known for his tactical head and passing flair, Xabi Alonso will be a major part of Spain’s attacking third.

Dedicated to Liverpool for five years before moving to Real Madrid in 2009, Alonso went to the side for a fee of £30 million.

He is known for accurate aerial passes, yet defensively is also strong and is a chief player for his international side, helping them win both the World Cup in 2010 then the Euros in 2012.


Speculation for the Dutch has surrounded Van Gaal’s starting formation the past few months, as he appears to be slowly converting from his traditional 4-3-3 set-up to a new 5-3-2 formation.

Assuming he continues this way, this could mean selecting the dynamic duo of Robben and Van Persie up top, whilst dropping Sneijder into the midfield.

Either way, with recent news of tempers boiling in the Holland training camp this week, their opening game is likely to be explosive.




The Galatasaray number 10 started his international career with the U17s and made his senior debut in 2003.

The attacking midfielder, who has also played for Real Madrid and Ajax, said the 2010 World Cup final defeat to Spain was his “rock bottom”. 

He is likely to be seeking revenge during their opener, which will be his 100th cap.


This is the first time the same teams that contested the previous World Cup final play each other in the group stage opening match.


The Northern Echo:

Sergio Ramos v Robin van Persie As key starters, their sides will rely on both players’ experience to help them through the game.

You don’t get much more experienced than Ramos, who has made 287 appearances for Real Madrid and 116 for his country, starting every game in the previous 2010 World Cup.

The ice-cool defender often helps the back four remain calm, which will be useful against tricky striker Robin Van Persie.

Van Persie has 314 senior club goals and 84 at international level.

After spending the later part of the season on the sidelines for Manchester United due to injury, he has dismissed rumours that he is not fit enough to start the World Cup.