Netherlands (0-0-0) vs. Spain (0-0-0), 3 p.m. (ET)
06/13/2014 9:55 AM
06/13/2014 9:59 AM
Salvador, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Group B kicks off with a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final as Spain will take on the Netherlands at the Arena Fonte Nova on Friday.
The two countries needed extra time to decide the winner of the 2010 final, which Spain ultimately won thanks to an Andres Iniesta strike.
And with the majority of the same pieces in place, Spain will be looking to make history by not only becoming the first nation to claim back-to-back World Cup titles since Brazil achieved the feat in 1962, but also by becoming the first European country to win the tournament in South America.
Spain's 2010 campaign opened with a narrow defeat to Switzerland, so with a much more difficult opponent awaiting the reigning champions in their 2014 opener, Bayern Munich midfielder Javi Martinez attempted to take some pressure off the team.
"In 2010 we showed that if you lose the first game it's not all over, but we want to get off to a winning start," he said. "To win the tournament you have to win as many games as possible, but in the last World Cup we showed that even after losing the first game, we wanted to get to the final."
While Spain remains among the favorites to win the entire tournament, the Netherlands faces stiff competition to emerge from a cutthroat field in Group B, which also consists of Chile and Australia.
The Dutch have plenty of experience in attack with the likes of Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, but the back line is relatively untested, increasing the concern as to whether the 2010 runners-up can even make it out of the group this time around.
In order to compensate for the lack of experience in defense, manager Louis van Gaal looks poised to deploy five defenders in the form of three center- backs and two wing-backs.
Ron Vlaar, who should feature as one of the nation's three central defenders along with Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi, is aware of the perception of Holland's weak defense, but he was quick to point out the stout performances in qualifying that saw the Dutch concede just five goals in 10 group games.
"We know that. We work hard to get better as a team and we also know we have our best players up front," Vlaar said. "But if you look at all the games we played during qualification and friendlies we didn't concede many goals.
"So we have to give confidence to our forwards to accelerate and make a difference for us. You play every game to win. You have to be realistic but I really believe we can achieve something. I look forward to it and I cannot wait."
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