MATCHDAY PREVIEW – With Spain still reeling after their heavy opening loss, will the Maracana crowd witness another nail in the coffin of tiki-taka? Or can fans expect a case of déjà vu, with the world champions needing to beat Chile to kick-start their bid – just as they did at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™?
Spain began with a defeat before lifting the Trophy four years ago, yet there was a world of difference between their 1-0 loss to Switzerland four years ago and Friday’s 5-1 rout by the Netherlands, which showed worrying signs of weariness and resignation. Vicente del Bosque is not the type of coach to tear up plans and start again, so he will most likely make a few minor adjustments and hope for a burst of pride from his players, while keeping his fingers crossed on the bench.
In the other game in Group B, the Netherlands will have to guard against overconfidence as they take on a tenacious Australia side, opponents they have never beaten in the past. Lastly, the two bottom teams in Group A will be chasing their first points, Croatia welcoming Mario Mandzukic back from suspension while Cameroon hope for good news on the state of Samuel Eto’o’s knee.
Australia-Netherlands (Group B), Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, 13.00 (local time)
Spain-Chile (Group B), Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, 16.00 (local time)
Cameroon-Croatia (Group A), Arena Amazonia, Manaus, 18.00 (local time)
Did you know?
History on their side: The Netherlands and Australia will cross paths for the first time at tournament level, but they have met three times in friendlies down the years. Perhaps surprisingly, the Socceroos hold the edge, recording 0-0 and 1-1 draws and triumphing 2-1 away from home on 6 September 2008 thanks to goals from Harry Kewell and Josh Kennedy.
Happy birthday, Fabio: Fresh from overseeing Russia’s encounter with Korea Republic, Fabio Capello celebrates turning 68 today. The former Juventus midfielder – who won 32 caps for Italy and scored eight goals – fulfilled his initial objective by leading the Sbornaya (National team) to these finals, but his long-term goal remains building a side capable of winning the title on Russian home soil in 2018.
Whitewash: Spain seem almost allergic to the colour white. After all, some of La Roja’s most significant setbacks have come when their players have marched out in white shirts, such as their quarter-final loss to Italy at USA 1994, their 3-2 group stage defeat by Nigeria at France 1998 and the 1-0 reverse to Portugal in the last eight at UEFA EURO 2004. Indeed, if anything, they appear even more jinxed when their opponents are the team in white – as at the World Cups in 1982 (against West Germany and England), 1986 (Belgium), 1990 (Yugoslavia), 2002 (Korea Republic) and 2006 (France).
Treading the tightrope
Stefan de Vrij, Jonathan de Guzman, Robin van Persie (NED)
Mark Milligan, Mile Jedinak, Tim Cahill (AUS)
Charles Aranguiz (CHI)
Iker Casillas (ESP)
Dany Nounkeu (CMR)
Dejan Lovren, Vedran Corluka (CRO)
Check it out
Robin van Persie’s diving header against Spain is arguably the most eye-catching and spectacular goal to have been scored so far at Brazil 2014, but the Netherlands striker is otherwise trying to keep his feet on the ground. “As a country, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to stay realistic,” he explained to FIFA.com. Wise words, given that Australia are brimming with self-belief, according to 24-year-old defender Ryan McGowan: “The fact that we’re on the biggest stage of all gives us a lot of confidence in ourselves.”
On this day
Italy looked to be heading for the quarter-finals thanks to Christian Vieri’s 18th-minute effort against co-hosts Korea Republic in Daejeon on 18 June 2002. That dream was put on hold in dramatic fashion, however, when Seol Ki-hyeon conjured an equaliser two minutes before the final whistle. With the crowd spurring their heroes on, Korea Republic then sealed a remarkable victory courtesy of Ahn Jung-hwan in the 117th minute, his effort ending the game on the golden-goal rule in operation between 1998 and 2004.
Play and win
You may not be the first person to kick one of these coveted balls, but your excitement will surely be unmatched if you are lucky enough do it! Sponsored by adidas, the Kick-Off Ball contest is your chance to win an actual kick-off ball from games at the 2014 World Cup. Each Kick-Off Ball contest opens at 4am (local time, Brasilia) on the relevant matchday and remains open for 24 hours. Enter as many Kick-off Ball contests as you like, but you can only submit one entry per match.
With three games today, that means three chances of winning – so now it’s over to you!
Fernando Torres looks focussed in training ahead of Spain’s clash with Chile at the Maracana.