Holland take on Spain tonight in a repeat of the opening game of group B in the 2014 World Cup, where nothing even remotely interesting happened. Is this going to be one of the games of the year or will it more likely be an average game between two former superpowers living off past glories? Tough choice, but I’m going to go with the latter.
Since their third place finish in the World Cup and Louis Van Gaal’s subsequent move to the red half of Manchester the Dutch have lost four of their seven games, including a two-nil loss to Iceland and a 3-2 loss at home to Mexico. Two wins against Kazakhstan and Latvia doesn’t look to promising either. It could have been much worse. Two goals in the last eight minutes saved them against Kazakhstan and a last minute equaliser against Turkey rescued a point.
Holland are a team in transition. 24 of the squad named for the draw against Turkey and tonight’s game have 25 caps or less and 14 of the squad play in Holland or leagues outside the top five. While there is a huge amount of talent in the squad there’s not a lot of experience. Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie and Nigel De Jong are all in their thirties and could bow out after France 2016 which leaves Holland with a severe lack of experience in big competitions.
Spain, on the other hand, are slightly ahead of Holland. While the World Cup did show that they are a pale shadow of the team that won the Euros in 2008 and 2012 with a World Cup in between they have bounced back with four wins in qualifying for Euro 2016. What will worry Spain is the fact that they have lost to France, Brazil and Slovakia since the World Cup.
Players like Xavi, Casillas, David Villa and Fernando Torres, all heroes during the golden years, are either finished or nearing the end of their international careers. Younger players like Koke, Isco and Alvaro Morata are all starting to stake their claims for regular action. At the moment Spain have a great mix of experience and youth, but the losses to Brazil, France and especially the loss to Slovakia highlighted the lack of experience in the Spanish team.
Both sides are in transition with Spain slightly further up the ladder. Tonight’s game should give the younger players a chance to shine and prove that they can bring success back to their respective countries. Or they might crash and burn and the future of Dutch and Spanish football could be destroyed forever.
Spain are slight favourites heading into the game at 7/5 over Holland’s 2/1 and considering form it’s a fair reflection. Some punters will have a go at the 375/1 repeat of the World Cup with a 5-1 win for Holland. However a slightly more realistic 1-0 win to either side is a decent bet at 7/1 (Spain) and 8/1 (Holland).
After netting his first international goal against Ukraine Alvaro Morata will be looking to follow that up with a goal tonight and at 6/1 he’s the favourite for the Spaniards. If you’re looking for slightly better odds Sergio Ramos has scored ten goals in his 124 appearances for Spain. At 25/1 it could be worth the change from a late night in Decies last night. Bas Dost (15/2) made his debut against Turkey and will be looking to make an impression while Robin Van Persie is out. Georginio Wijnaldum is at 18/1 to increase his tally of two with the Dutch and is another one who could be worth the change in the back of your pocket after a late Monday night lash.
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