Wednesday 22 November 2017

World Cup reaction: Vicente Del Bosque expecting tough encounter with the Dutch

Nigel de Jong (right), the Holland midfielder, thrusts his boot into Xabi Alonso's chest during the 2010 final
Nigel de Jong (right), the Holland midfielder, thrusts his boot into Xabi Alonso's chest during the 2010 final

Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque was proved correct after the world champions were drawn to meet Holland in their opening game of next summer's World Cup in Brazil.

Del Bosque told friends before Friday's draw that he expected to be paired against the Oranje - who they beat 1-0 to lift the Jules Rimet trophy in Johannesburg three years ago.

That proved to be the case as Spain were also pooled with Chile and Australia in a tough-looking Group B.

Spain will meet Holland in Salvador, coincidentally where the draw was made, on the second day of the tournament.

"It has not been an easy draw for us and in fact it will be rather complicated," Del Bosque said in comments posted on the Spanish national team's official website.

"I told some close friends this morning that we would get Holland in the first game and that is how it turned out. Holland have changed the way they play but have still got [Rafael] Van der Vaart, [Arjen] Robben and [Robin] Van Persie."

Spain's task may not get any easier should they progress with hosts Brazil potentially awaiting in the round of 16.

Brazil will open the tournament against Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12 and will be fully expected to progress after Cameroon - the second lowest-ranked team in FIFA's list - and Mexico were pooled with them.

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"I imagine Brazil will be first, so we have to look to be the first too," Del Bosque said.

Holland boss Louis van Gaal admitted his side face a tough task to progress, but at least found some relief in the fact that they avoided playing in the heat and humidity of northern Brazil.

"It's a tough draw in terms of the opponents we will face, but in terms of the conditions it is okay," he said in comments on Voetbal International.

"We are playing against the world champions Spain and against Australia who we have never beaten.

"I watched Chile playing in qualifying in Colombia when they led 3-0. It finished 3-3 but they are not a bad team."

The other notable draws came in Group D (Uruguay, Italy, England and Costa Rica) and Group G (Germany, Portugal, United States and Ghana).

Italy were the unlucky European nation to be thrust into Pot Two and their lack of luck was further compounded with a first-up match against England in the Amazonian city of Manaus on June 15.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli put a brave face on the outcome, telling reporters: "There are three champions of the world in our group but we are not worried - I am not worried.

"When the media tell you it's an easy group, that's when you have to worry. I'm only worried about the conditions because no matter who you are up against, you're going to have to deal with the weather.

"Our toughest opponent? Costa Rica, because we do not know a lot about them."

Germany coach Joachim Low admitted it was "special" to be drawn against Jurgen Klinsmann's USA.

Low worked under Klinsmann at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and told the German Football Association (DFB) website: "We're not only facing Jurgen Klinsmann again, but we also had Ghana in our 2010 World Cup group and Portugal at Euro 2012, so we'll be facing some familiar faces, but it's certainly special to have the USA in the group."

Germany will now set about the task of confirming their base for the tournament, with their matches in the northern cities of Salvador, Fortaleza and Recife.

"We know now who we're up against and where we're playing, so now we can take the next step and work towards the World Cup," he said. "We're going to have to get to the hot and humid conditions."

France scraped through to the World Cup finals but were handed arguably the most straightforward draw after being paired with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in Group E.

Russia manager Fabio Capello was also content after his side were pooled in Group H with Belgium, Algeria and South Korea.

"The draw is not so bad," he told the BBC.

"Another important thing is the location we play is in the centre of Brazil, not the north where it is real warm and humid and difficult to recover energy. I am happy."

Lionel Messi's Argentina were also dealt a kind hand against Iran, Nigeria and debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Iran boss Carlos Queiroz believes his side may be able to sneak through, telling the BBC: "It is a great opportunity for us to progress and be a better team. We come with an illusion to qualify for the second round."

In a largely friendly draw for the major South American nations Colombia will be up against Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece in Group C.

Reaction group-by-group

Group A

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari

"This is the sixth Cup for Croatia. They have a very good team. For Cameroon it's the fifth time and they've achieved some feats in Cups. And Mexico is a very tough adversary. There are no easy groups.

"It's always good to start off against a European team because they have to go through an adaptation period in Brazil and there are a series of things they'll need to implement," he said of the tournament opener against Croatia on June 12.

"It will be a balanced first match but we live here, we work here and we know this country better than anybody."

 -

Croatia coach Niko Kovac

"Having been drawn in such a tough group we will be delighted to open the World Cup against the host nation. Little Croatia against the big and mighty Brazil will be quite a match-up. A huge motive for my players and a very special occasion for us.

"We are going there to play entertaining football and do the best we can to make an impact but I can't promise passage into the last 16. The most important thing is that we prepare well and leave nothing left to chance in terms of fitness."

 - -

Group B

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque

"I don't think it is the 'group of death', there are very strong opponents in other groups. But yes it is a tough one.

"We will have to be prepared right from the first day, focus ourselves.

"They will demand the very best from us but it is in our own hands too and doesn't just depend on our opponents."

 -

Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli

"This is a very complicated group considering the rivals. Obviously, playing against two very important Europeans including the defending champions, is always going to be (tough).

"One assumes that the rivals are difficult because of their history but when it comes time to play we hope Chile can play big games like we did against England and Spain."

Chile beat England 2-0 at Wembley last month and drew 2-2 against Spain in Switzerland in September.

 -

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou

"We're a young nation in football terms so it is our chance to make headlines.

"It's a tough group, an exciting group. All the teams play good football."

 -

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal

"As far as opponents are concerned it is a tough draw. The conditions are even tougher. We are playing the world champions, we've never won against Australia and Chile are no slouches. We play in tough venues, it is certainly not easy at all."

 - -

Group C

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman

"It's a balanced group, we have one African team, one Asian and one European. We've shown we can compete with any team with a lot of character."

 -

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni

"It's a shame we've been grouped with the best African side but we haven't been hit with another European team. It's one thing having to take on Greece and another facing up to Holland or France.

"We'll be playing in the heat but we have the experience of playing in the 2013 Confederations Cup."

 - -

Group D

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli

"We're not worried about the group. I would have been worried if the media had started saying that it was an easy group.

"The conditions (in Manaus) worry me because it's not just about taking on these teams but how you do it.

"We maybe have a slight advantage over the other teams - apart from Uruguay - because we know the difficulties that we had to face in the Confederations Cup."

 -

England coach Roy Hodgson

"It's a tough group, there's no doubt about that. A lot of people are saying they are in tough groups but there is no doubt that in Italy and Uruguay we've almost got two number one seeds because Italy were very unlucky not to be seeded among the first eight.

"There is a lot of travelling to be done in a lot of the groups and our great advantage is that being based in Rio de Janeiro we've only got the one long trip (to Manaus).

"The other two trips to Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte are relatively short trips to the same neck of the woods."

 -

Uruguay forward Diego Forlan

"In comparison with what other teams have got, it's the hardest group of this World Cup. But you have to play the matches and at the last World Cup we were in a very complicated group but came through well."

 - -

Group E

France coach Didier Deschamps

"It could have been more complicated. Beyond the name of our opponents the other good thing is that we won't play in the northern towns where the temperatures are high, we'll stay in our zone.

"We know Switzerland well, they were seeded so obviously are the toughest opponents. We don't know Ecuador and Honduras that well and it will have an influence on our preparation. We'll play at least one pre-tournament friendly against a South American nation."

 -

Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld

"A very tense and level group with different mentalities.

"European teams facing teams from South America and from Central America. It's a very interesting group to play in. France are very effective opponents but no need to complain. We must use the time that we have to prepare for the conditions that we are going to face."

 -

Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda

"The humidity issue? Ecuador does well in that type of climatic situation.

"To face Honduras (who Rueda coached at the 2010 finals) it does help a lot. We know each other and it's a match we have to play intelligently."

 - -

Group F

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella

"We didn't get the group of death and we got a geographical area playing in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre, that is in general terms positive.

"Everyone knows I'm a great admirer of Brazilian football, on top of that they're the home side, which is a double edged sword.

"Brazil (who Argentina could meet in the knockout rounds) have a great coach and great players who will make being at home an advantage."

 

Bosnia coach Safet Susic

"Argentina are the group favourites and it will be a very special occasion for us to play our opening match against them at the Maracana Stadium. We should have an even chance alongside Nigeria to clinch the runners-up spot although no one should underestimate Iran either.

"We have a fair chance of reaching the knockout rounds."

 -

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz

"We are here to play against the best in the world and, to have the opportunity to play against Argentina early on, well, we could not ask for more."

 - -

Group G

Germany coach Joachim Loew

"We will be meeting old friends. It's already something special to have the U.S. in our group. (Coach) Juergen (Klinsmann) and I have had a very good and close relationship for a long time. We have always exchanged ideas on a regular basis but that will certainly change before the World Cup match."

 -

Portugal coach Paulo Bento

"It looks like a pretty balanced group to me, with a favourite that is Germany.

"We also started the last European Championship against Germany, we lost 1-0 but put in a good match.

"The U.S. and Ghana are also very organised sides with many players having European football experience."

 -

Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah

"It's nice to meet Germany and also the U.S. who we beat in the last 16 in 2010. We are a better team than in 2010 and I'm sure there will be a lot of surprises in this group."

 -

United States coach Juergen Klinsmann

"I had a feeling in my stomach we'd get Germany. It's one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw. Including having Portugal and (their top striker Cristiano) Ronaldo ... it couldn't get more difficult or any bigger.

"But that's what the World Cup is about and we'll take it. Hopefully we'll surprise some people there. We're going to be prepared, we're going to be confident."

 - -

Group H

Russia coach Fabio Capello

"The physical stature of two of the teams worries me. South Korea are physically strong and Belgium have excellent players who are also very quick."

 -

South Korea coach Hong Myung-bo

"We played a friendly against Russia in November but we will have to study them again, things change. People may think it's an easy group but it's not true. We should not underestimate any of our opponents, they are all strong and can go through."

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