CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — With the Netherlands determined to use a defensive setup to beat Spain, the World Cup champions are honing their famed “tiki-taka” system in reply.
Coach Vicente del Bosque put his squad through an intense opening training session on Monday, pushing his players to refine the quick-touch, possession-based style that has propelled it to the top of world football.
Spain’s commitment to its tactics has left the Netherlands preparing a new formation with five defenders for their Group B opener on Friday.
The rematch of the brutish 2010 World Cup final, won by Spain 1-0, looks like it could pick up in Salvador right where it left off in Johannesburg.
“It’s a key game because it is the first game. It’s fundamental,” midfielder David Silva said on Monday. “We know if we can win this game we’ll take a big step forward.”
Del Bosque said in an interview published Monday that the Spain players are not “tiki-taka Talibans,” suggesting the team could vary its tactics when needed. The former Real Madrid coach has tinkered with his formation at each tournament since taking over in 2008, with Silva often being relied on to be a difference maker.
Silva found himself coming off the bench during World Cup qualifying, but Del Bosque has often called on the Manchester City midfielder at major tournaments.
Against the Dutch, Silva’s ability to unlock the opponent’s defense could provide the necessary breakthrough.
“I’ve played in all of the major tournaments, maybe not in qualifying but in the Euros I did,” Silva said. “I’ll take advantage of my opportunities when I have them.”
Spain had few distractions on its first full day in Brazil, with the team fenced in and closed off from the public inside the facilities of local club Atletico Paranaense. The federation said 200 accredited journalists watched the training while curious locals gathered by the entrance to try and gleam a look at the Spanish stars.
Spain worked on threading short passes into tight spots in anticipation of its defensive opponent on Friday. The players didn’t seem worried, though, about a repeat of the gritty encounter at Soccer City in the 2010 final when 13 yellow cards and one red were brandished.
“That’s what the referees are there for,” defender Raul Albiol said. “We’re just going to concentrate on playing our game and making sure we’re at the level we need to be.”
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