Kick-off: Spain’s first game a grudge match

Holders Spain open their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on Friday in a repeat of the 2010 final with the Dutch out for revenge.

Kick-off: Spain's first game a grudge match
Will the Dutch use similar tactics to those employed during the final in South Africa four years ago? Photo: Carl de Souza/AFP

Andres Iniesta's strike four minutes from the end of extra-time in the Johannesburg final crowned Spain as world champions for the first time and now, four years later, the European giants clash again at Salvador's Arena Fonte Nova in the mouth-watering opening match of Group B.

With South American dark horses Chile and Australia still to come, a win for either side would set the group's agenda.

Captain Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Nigel De Jong and Dirk Kuyt are the five survivors from the 2010 final in the current squad and the Dutch have made no secret of their desire for revenge.

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"It was a big chance for us to win the World Cup and we were really close," said Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar.

"It should always burn inside to make something right. To play against them now in the first game is a great challenge."

Veteran midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who will win his 100th cap in the match, said the wounds of that defeat were still raw.

"It's like a scar that hasn't yet healed. It always gets me down when I think about it," said the Galatasaray star.

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As the double European and reigning world champions, Vicente del Bosque's Spain are bidding to join Brazil and Italy as the only teams to have enjoyed back-to-back World Cup wins.

The ever-loyal Del Bosque is expected to make just one change from the side which started and won the Euro 2012 final with Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta coming in for Alvaro Arbeloa at right-back.

– No fear, just respect –

Cesc Fabregas should start up front for Spain with Brazil-born Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa expected to make a second-half appearance from the bench.

"We don't have any fear. But we do have respect," said del Bosque.

"Holland are a well-organised team, well-coached, and I am sure they will make things difficult for us."

Spain can expect a hostile reception in Salvador, judging by last year's Confederations Cup when they were widely booed on their run to the final where they lost 3-0 to hosts Brazil.

Van Persie is expected to be fit, despite arriving in Brazil as an injury concern after sustaining a groin problem in last week's 2-0 friendly win over Wales in Amsterdam.

Coach Louis van Gaal has experimented with a 5-3-2 formation designed to close down Spain's potent attack and counter-attack hard.

But the future Manchester United manager used a 4-4-2 formation against the Welsh to keep the Spanish guessing which system he will use in Salvador.

Much relies for the Dutch on their attacking triumvirate of Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Sneijder, while their defence has been criticised as the team's weak link.

Spain are wary of their opponents' ability to hit them on the break, warned midfielder Sergio Busquets.

The 25-year-old Barcelona star, who played in the 2010 final, said while most of the team that won the World Cup remained, Holland now have a lot of new young talent.

"We have practically the same players whereas they have had an infusion of new players and a new coach (Louis van Gaal)," said Busquets.

"They have deployed a different system of playing, with five defenders and relying on hitting their opponents on the counter-attack.

"We have to thwart their counter-attacks and also keep a close eye on their most effective players such as Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder.

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Spain proposes 2030 World Cup bid shared with Morocco and Portugal

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday that he had pitched the idea of a joint bid between his country, Portugal and Morocco to host the 2030 World Cup.

Spain proposes 2030 World Cup bid shared with Morocco and Portugal
Spain won the world cup in 2010. Photo: AFP

“I made the proposal, firstly to the government then to King Mohammed VI to launch a shared application with Morocco, Portugal and Spain to host the 2030 World Cup,” Sanchez said in Rabat after a meeting with the monarch.   

“It will be the first two-continent application, with Europe and Africa, and King Mohammed VI welcomed the proposal warmly.”   

Earlier this year the King ordered the Royal Moroccan Football Federation to launch their own World Cup bid but the office of the Moroccan prime minister, Saad Eddine el Othmani, refused to comment on Sanchez's statement when contacted by AFP.

The north African country has failed five times to bring the tournament to the southern shores of the Mediterranean, with the United States, Canada and Mexico most recently beating them to the 2026 competition.   

Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay have proposed a bid to coordinate the 2030 event, which will mark 100 years since the first tournament.   

Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia are also considering a joint bid, as are the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.   

The official bidding process is set to being in 2020.

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