Business as usual for La Roja

13 Jun


Held at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, the third game of World Cup 2014 is a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final between Holland and Spain.

Spain (5/6) qualified for Brazil 2014 as group winners, but weren’t as impressive as they’d been in previous qualification campaigns, such as 2010 when they won every game.

Indeed, Spain actually drew two games in a row and had to rely on defeating France in Paris in order to avoid a play-off. That win, however, has not worked in their favour as France have arguably been given an easier draw in the World Cup tournament group stages.

Are Spain a declining force, then? A little, as they’re not as quick or attack-minded in moving the ball as they used to be, have perhaps believed in their own hype a little too much and no longer really have an elite striker that’s in his prime and scoring 30 goals a season with his club.

Ok, Negredo had an impressive debut campaign in England with Manchester City, while Diego Costa has proved that he’s world-class, but the latter is relatively untried in national team tactics, likely not at full fitness and the ‘La Roja’ coach, Del Bosque, often prefers a ‘false’ No 9, such as Fabregas, anyway.

Most crucially, I’d argue, the way opponents play against Spain is the biggest problem, certainly from an entertainment perspective. Of course, set to face the mighty Spain – winner of back-to-back European Championships, the last World Cup and considered to be by far the best team in world football throughout that period – is a daunting task for most national teams, and consequently they’ll fear being beaten by a heavy scoreline and play negative football in order to try and avoid such an outcome.

So, a victim of their own success, Spain now face teams who simply ‘park the bus’ and try to stifle them. Given this, Draw/Spain in the Half Time/Full Time market, under 2.5 goals and 1 or 2-0 correct scores have proven to be the bets to take in recent fixtures.

Eventually, Spain believe that they’ll wear their opponents down, score and win. That’s usually the case, but then by attacking Spain from the offset – something Del Bosque’s boys are not used to – and continuing to attack after taking the lead, Brazil demonstrated another way to potentially stop – and in their case – beat the number one ranked team in world football in the 2013 Confederations Cup final.

With Holland (4/1) perceived to be weak and slow in defence, is their best form of defence attack? Possibly, but then this is the first group game of a World Cup, nobody wants to lose that and I expect the Dutch to try to keep Spain at bay by defending in numbers and attempting to strike on the counter-attack through players like Robben and van Persie.

In conclusion, with under 2.5 goals too short priced at 1/2, I’ve gone for the bigger priced double result favourite. Oh, and I don’t think that Diego Costa will start the first game, for the reasons listed earlier and the perception that a more mobile, experienced Villa – who came on as a substitute – took the plaudits when Costa received a recent start for Spain against El Salvador. After all, as mentioned, the first game is not one for risk taking.

Recommendation: HT/FT -Draw/Spain (10/3, Ladbrokes)

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