RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Spain and the Netherlands played out one of the most disappointing World Cup finals in history four years ago. They get a chance to make amends right away in Brazil.
In one of the quirks of the draw for Brazil, Spain opens the defense of its title against the country it beat in the championship decider in Johannesburg four years ago.
But while Vicente Del Bosque's team has stuck to its attacking philosophy, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal is packing his defense and hoping one of his three star forwards, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben or Wesley Sneijder, can snatch a goal on the counterattack in their Group B opener at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.
"I don't think we're capable at the moment of playing tiki-taka or beautiful football. In the end, it's all about the result," Robben said, referring to Spain and Barcelona's quick-passing style of play. "The counter attack is a very dangerous weapon that we're certainly going to use at this tournament."
The Netherlands disappointed a lot of fans with its tough tackling in the Johannesburg final four years ago, which Spain won thanks to an extra-time goal from Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta. The match was marred by a flurry of cards — eight yellow and one red for the Dutch and five yellow for Spain.
But Van Gaal is not looking to win friends in Brazil, he wants to win matches and isn't prepared to revert to his favored style of attacking "total football" that once earned the Dutch the reputation of the Brazilians of European football.
To do it, he will likely play five defenders, three midfielders and two men up front — his biggest stars, Manchester United striker Van Persie and Bayern Munich winger Robben.
"We want to make the space narrow" for Spain's attackers, said Van Gaal, whose only previous match against Spain was in his first stint as Netherlands coach when his team won 2-1 in Seville in 2000.
While the Netherlands has undergone major changes since South Africa and is missing key midfielder Kevin Strootman through injury, Spain is largely unaltered, fit and has no plans to jettison a playing style that has won it so many plaudits in recent years.
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