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"Spain are blessed with unbelievable players in midfield like Andreas Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso. As much as I’d love to see Juan Mata start, I’m not sure he will do."

- Danny Higginbotham

13/06/2014 13:30, Report by M Froggatt, A Bostock

Spain set to battle Holland

MUTV pundit and ex-United defender Danny Higginbotham assesses Group B rivals Spain and Netherlands and the Reds who are involved…
If Juan Mata and David De Gea were from another country, they would definitely be first choice for their national team. 

De Gea was outstanding last season but he’s got Pepe Reina and Iker Casillas in front of him so he has to settle for being Spain’s third keeper at the World Cup. As for Mata’s competitors, where do you start? Spain are blessed with unbelievable players. Their best players are in midfield like Andreas Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso. As much as I’d love to see him start, I’m not sure he will do.

Spain are still outstanding and the age of players like Xavi is not really a problem for them because of the way they play, they make the opposition do all the running. But other countries are creeping up on them as Brazil showed when they beat them in the Confederations Cup last summer.

As for Holland, over many years and all the tournaments I can remember, going back to the 1980s, the Dutch have always had undoubted talent. They’ve probably had one of the top three squads at each World Cup or European Championship. But on too many occasions, temperament has been a problem for them with in-house arguments or players competing to be top dog. Now that Louis van Gaal’s in charge, he won’t stand for any of that.

Van Gaal insists on a team ethic and shows the door to anyone who won’t buy into it. As for tactics, he seems to favour 3-5-2 and that makes sense for the heat of Brazil because, unless you’re a wingback, it’s a system in which you as a player expend less energy.

I can also see Robin van Persie having a very good tournament and I would expect Netherlands to join Spain in going through from the group, unless the outcome of their massive first match against each other encourages Chile who should beat Australia.

More: Van Persie ready to fire in Brazil

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