WATCH: Spain has a winning mentality
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – The big rematch between Spain and Netherlands has come around quickly. The teams that played in the final of the last World Cup meet again on Day 2 in Brazil.
The 2014 tournament kicked off with host nation Brazil beating Croatia 3-1 after conceding an early own goal on Thursday. The Group B clash between defending champion Spain and Netherlands is one of three games set for Friday.
Here are some things to look for:
NO COMPARISON: Dutch winger Arjen Robben has consigned his team’s 1-0 loss to Spain in the 2010 final to history, saying he doesn’t believe in revenge and there’s no way to compare a group game with a title decider.
That doesn’t mean there’ll be any less ferocity in the tackles.
On the eve of the rematch, coach Louis van Gaal defended the tough tackling in the 2010 final that resulted in a total of 13 yellow cards, one red card and wide criticism for his predecessor. That sounds like a cue for more of the same.
Van Gaal signalled he’s considering playing five defenders to stifle Spain’s slick-passing forwards in a further sign that the attacking “total football” style of the Dutch teams of the 1970s and ’80s has been supplanted by a tough, uncompromising focus on defence.
WATCH: Dutch team looking to take their game to next stage
And they train as they intend to play – Robben was floored twice in tackles in practice this week and midfield playmaker Wesley Sneijder was left wincing in pain after a tackle from behind by Nigel de Jong.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque believes his team is in its prime and determined to continue a winning run in major events that started at Euro 2008.
Brazilian-born striker Diego Costa is expected to start up front for a Spain, which will likely be relying on a midfield containing David Silva, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets to help the team dominate possession.
Fabregas will be playing a day after announcing he is leaving Barcelona to return to Chelsea on a five-year deal.
Venue: Salvador. Kickoff: 4 p.m. local time (3 p.m. in New York, 8 p.m. in London, 4 a.m. in Tokyo).
VIDAL AVAILABLE? Midfield playmaker Arturo Vidal could make an earlier than expected comeback from injury to play in Chile’s World Cup opener against Australia.
Vidal, who had knee surgery last month, practiced well this week, leading coach Jorge Sampaoli to say it was “highly likely” the Juventus star would be fit before Chile’s game against the lowest-ranked team in the tournament.
Most of the pre-tournament attention in Group B has focused on the 2010 finalists Spain and Netherlands, but the way the Chileans have risen steadily in the rankings has many pundits – even Brazil great Pele – picking them to progress out of the group.
If Vidal doesn’t play, the attacking thrust will fall mostly on speedy Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez, who is among the players who’ve benefited from Sampaoli’s expansive and high-tempo tactics and is more than capable of exploiting any weaknesses in the inexperienced Australian defence.
Australia, which has slid down to No. 62 in the FIFA rankings since its run to the second round in 2006, will need some moments of genius from New York Red Bulls star Tim Cahill to have any chance against Chile.
Venue: Cuiaba. Kickoff: 6 p.m. local time (6 p.m. in New York, 11 p.m. in London, 7 a.m. in Tokyo).
MONEY TALKS: Cameroon’s players arrived late for the World Cup after belatedly resolving a bonus payment dispute with their national federation. Now they’re under pressure to show why they’re worth it.
With players like Chelsea’s Samuel Eto’o and Barcelona’s Alex Song, Cameroon is capable of advancing out of Group A. But they need to put the bonus flap, and a disappointing three losses at the last World Cup, behind them and concentrate on Mexico.
Mexico coach Miguel Herrera is set to leave Manchester United forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez on the bench and give starts up front to Villarreal forward Giovanni Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta, the star of Mexico’s gold-medal win at the London Olympics.
Venue: Natal. Kickoff: 1 p.m. local time (noon in New York, 5 p.m. in London, 1 a.m. in Tokyo).