Wednesday, June 11
CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — If there is one player Spain is wary of before its World Cup opener, it is Netherlands forward Arjen Robben.
Friday's Group B game not only offers a rematch of the 2010 final won by Spain, but a chance of redemption for the Dutch winger.
Robben was put clean through to face Iker Casillas at Soccer City but saw his effort deflected wide by the Spain goalkeeper in the final's best scoring opportunity until Andres Iniesta netted the extra-time winner.
Spain defender Javi Martinez said that moment has stayed with his Bayern Munich teammate, so the defending champions will be keeping a close eye on Robben in Salvador.
"Robben shakes his defender so well to find space, so we're going to have keep tabs on him," Martinez said on Wednesday.
While Martinez also pointed to Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder's ability to decide games, Spain knows that it's Robben who is the most eager to make up for his famous miss.
"(Robben and I) have talked about that moment," Martinez said. "It was a very tough moment for the Netherlands and especially to him, with that chance against Iker."
With Chile and Australia also in Group B, both Spain and the Netherlands know that a loss in the group opener would leave either team in a bind. Spain, though, lost its opening match against Switzerland in South Africa four years ago but rallied to win its first World Cup.
"If you lose the first game you cannot afford another slip-up," Martinez said. "We want to start on the right foot, especially since it gives you even more confidence starting with a victory from your first game."
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has reiterated that his team needs to be more aggressive inside the area. That message has certainly gotten through to his players, which will go up against a Dutch team that plans to use five defenders to combat its possession game.
Spain attributes its 3-0 Confederations Cup final loss to Brazil last summer to lacking that particular quality.
"Brazil was more aggressive than us," Martinez said. "Every team is very motivated to beat us so if we don't go out 100 percent focused than whichever team it may be can cause us problems."
Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP