Spanish and Dutch much changed
Spain have the muscle but Holland must use their guile in this rematch of 2010 final
SPAIN v HOLLAND
(Tomorrow, 3am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & StarHub TV Ch 223)
Just 23 hours after the first game in the 2014 World Cup, there will be a replay of the last game of the 2010 World Cup.
Neither Spain nor Holland would have wanted such an intense start to their summer. Neither Spain nor Holland can afford to make a mistake.
Group B is one of the toughest in the opening stage. There is no margin for error.
Holders Spain have endured a certain amount of criticism in the build-up to this tournament, more so than you would usually expect of a side with three consecutive major trophies on their CV.
But then much has changed since the rise of Spain, Barcelona and tiki-taka.
Europe is still dominant, but no longer by velvet-slippered passing machines, instead by powerful counter-attacking sides, heavy on the press and potent on the break.
But Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is insistent that his side are not bound by ideology.
"We are not Talibans with just one way of playing," he sighed. "Possession without depth doesn't have any point.
"For that reason, we are working so that the team can pressure to win back possession and then, as a group, attack."
There will certainly be more intensity in the final third if Diego Costa can prove his fitness.
The Atletico Madrid man, close to a summer move to Chelsea, is a constant menace, but has suffered from a hamstring problem since the end of last season.
He appeared for Spain against El Salvador and has insisted that he will be fit for Holland, although it should be said that he made similar claims before the Champions League final and then lasted only nine minutes.
If he does play, Costa can expect a hot reception from Brazilian fans.
Having deserted his nation in the build-up to a World Cup to play for a foreign power, he is unlikely to be greeted with warmth and affection.
Costa, however, has never been one to allow himself to be intimidated.
Holland coach Louis van Gaal was made from a similar mould.
Confident to the point of arrogance, the man who will replace David Moyes at Manchester United next month, has never shied away from singing his own praises.
And yet van Gaal has been on a mission to lower expectations with the Oranje.
"There are eight to 10 teams better than we are," he said recently. "The chances of reaching the quarter-finals are 20 per cent."
The prospect of a fit and fresh Robin van Persie should certainly change those odds a little, but van Gaal is right to be respectful of such a tough group.
Chile, their opponents in the final game, are an excellent, inventive team and could easily force one of the European sides out.
There are also signs that the fractures and rifts traditional in any Dutch tournament squad are already emerging.
Arjen Robben and Bruno Martins Indi clashed in training last week, with the Bayern forward lashing out at his Feyenoord counterpart after a heavy challenge.
Martins Indi confirmed afterwards that there was a problem between the two men.
Van Gaal will need his side to be unified if they are to buck his odds and qualify for the next round.
Even if football has changed in the last three years, Spain are still the world champions and they are still to be feared.
The Dutch will not be able to risk the ferocious, aggressive approach they used in the final in 2010, not with the risk of losing key players to suspension.
Van Gaal will need to be smarter than that. This is the hardest start he could have been given. And it's not much easier for Spain either.