Spain must show some real intensity from the first whistle as they begin their defence of the World Cup on Friday against Holland, the same opponents they beat in the final in South Africa four years ago.
Gaizka Mendieta, our Sony expert following Spain in Brazil, has already suggested things may be more difficult this time round. Critics have variously suggested that their ‘tika-taka’ brand of football is no longer effective, and Mendieta believes they should adopt a more direct style against the Dutch.
“I think Spain need a little bit of intensity in their football, like with every style,” said Mendieta, capped 40 times for the national team. “But Spain [need it] even more, because when they haven’t got the intensity, the verticality and the directness that you need to attack and to score, it can become predictable.
“And that is easier to defend, obviously, for the opposition teams. That’s why I think they have been accused sometimes of being boring, because it becomes predictable. That obviously needs to be changed. It needs to be changed by bringing in new players who are younger and with the desire to win things. I am not saying the ones already there don’t want to win anything, but it is a natural cycle in sport.”
One new addition is the Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, who could give Spain that direct outlet in Brazil, if he is fully recovered from the injury that flared up again in the Champions League final.
Holland were brutal opponents in Johannesburg and while they will be no pushovers in Salvador under coach Louis Van Gaal, it is likely to be a more intriguing tactical battle. The champions will continue with their attacking philosophy, while the Dutch will look to surprise them on the counter-attack.