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Spain-Holland Preview: Can a Band of Hungover Dutchmen Defeat Tiki-Taka's Trotsky?

Nando Vila and Joseph O’Neill dissect Friday's Group B clash

Photo credit Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Nando Vila, the host of the Soccer Gods television show, is a supporter of Spain. Netherland author Joseph O’Neill roots for Holland. Over email from Rio and Nova Scotia, respectively, they debated their teams' chances headed into the rematch of the 2010 final. 

Nando Vila

So Joseph, Spain play Holland in a rematch of the 2010 World Cup Final! Now, normally this would warrant wall to wall press coverage as the global population waits for the match, holding their breath. But instead we have this: A match that NOBODY is talking about. There is so little attention, in fact, that I can only name four to five players on the Dutch team. And I'm supposedly a "professional" "soccer expert." 

I do have to admit that one thing worries me and that is that old salty dog Louis Van Gaal. I remember his two tempestuous spells at Barcelona. And while he spent most of the time pissing everyone off, he always was a very difficult manager to beat. He also did this:

On the other hand, there are reports coming out of Brazil that Sneijder, Kuyt, and De Jong were partying til 11 a.m. on Monday night. Seems like they know they're getting knocked out and are just trying to make the best of it. 

All in all: I think it will be a tougher game than a lot of people are expecting.

Joseph O’Neill: 

Well Nando, this game offers the Dutch an opportunity to redeem themselves after their embarrassing attempt to kick the Spanish off the field in the 2010 World Cup final. I'm not sure what Louis van Gaal will come up with to counter Spain and tiki-tika, the irony being that van Gaal himself, while coaching Barcelona, was instrumental in its development—which is to be expected, since tiki-taka is an attractively Marxist version of Total Football: the collectivization of possession, the ending of the players' alienation from the ball, etc.

I'm not worried about the reports of Dutch players partying till 11 p.m., which is the time that most Spanish people sit down for dinner. Also, this is Brazil. Different rules apply, surely.

My feeling is that this will be a cagey match, as befits a World Cup opener, and that Dutch defensive frailties will result in a narrow win for the cup holders.


Joseph, I think you misread me. I said 11 a.m. As in they were partying all night and into the morning. To be fair though, I was out really late last night as well. Who wouldn't if they had an all expenses paid trip to Rio for "work"?

And if tiki-taka is Marxist, then Xavi is its Trotsky. He is tiki-taka's idealistic radical. He simply can't conceive of why any team wouldn't play possession-based football. But like Trotsky, he is being exiled. Whether he starts or not is one of the major issues in Spain at the moment. His level has dropped significantly in the past two years, as he is no longer able to provide the obsessive defensive pressure that he used to.

The other big question mark on Spain's teams is Diego Costa. The Brazilian born striker was unbelievable for Atlético Madrid this season, but he has limited playing time with Spain. Will he be able to adapt his play to Spain's possession play? He is the team's biggest goal threat, but he likes to operate in space, where he can use his aggressiveness and overwhelming physique to plow through defenses. You may see Del Bosque start with a striker-less formation with Diego Costa coming on in the second half.

Here are some stats for you Joseph. Spain is the team with the most collective caps in the World Cup, but they are not the oldest. They are also the team whose players have played the most collective minutes this season. Now that is good in the sense that it means that Spain's players are important players on important teams, but it's worrying in the sense that fatigue could be an issue.

If I were choosing the team for tomorrow my lineup would be: Casillas, Azpilicueta, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Xabi Alonso; Iniesta, Koke, Silva; Villa.

You may see Pedro, Diego Costa, or Cesc start, however.


Partying till 11 a.m sounds like Total Partying to me—again, ideal preparation for Brazil. It also explains the terminology coming out of the Dutch camp, which I had previously misunderstood to be a relic of Total Football Communism, namely the constant references to The Party. Do you have any links to drinking stats?

That is a very frightening XI you've typed out there. It's good of you to worry about the fatigue factor for the Spanish players, but there's nothing more tiring than running around trying to break up the Spanish-Catalan passing triangles. Just thinking about it exhausts me.

My one wish for the Dutch team is that they had someone in the team like Arie Haan, who could shoot and score from long distance, especially in South America. As matters stand, they'll have to hope that individual brilliance—from van Persie, Robben, and possibly Sneijder, if he's not hung over—will get them over the line, and that the water-carrying remainder of the team will do their bit. I've seen photos of the Dutch training in which the players are attached to each other with elastic halters, and so I can only guess that this will be the defensive strategy: actually tie up the Spanish.


I don't have any drinking stats, but I suspect a Dutchman with a blonde mullet named Dirk should be able to down his fair share of cocktails.

Good luck tomorrow. I think it will be tough. I don't trust Van Gaal and his crazy formations. I'm getting nervous just thinking about it. Try to find a place out there in Nova Scotia to actually watch it. I'll be in Rio de Janeiro trolling all the Brazilians in my Diego Costa jersey.


Thanks, Nando, I have a feeling I'll find a way to watch the game. I'm not sure what kind of jersey I'll be wearing. The Nova Scotians are probably the nicest, least troll able people in the world.