Your daily World Cup tip sheet for who's playing when, and what to watch for. We'll deliver a new briefing the evening before every game day, highlighting the can't-miss match and which players to watch.
Match of the day: Spain vs. Netherlands
Group B play begins with a rematch of the 2010 final that Spain won 1-0 on an extra-time goal by Andres Iniesta. La Roja are on a major roll in international play, riding their “tiki-taka” style of play to European titles in 2008 and 2012 as well as the 2010 World Cup. If you’re a fan of advanced stats in hockey, the defending champs are the soccer team for you. Possession in the opposition half of the pitch is the name of their game, attained through an endless array of short, pinpoint passes. The Netherlands, always resplendent in their trademark orange kits, are loaded with offensive talent. Manchester United striker Robin van Persie is the leader, but names like Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben, Galatasaray’s Wesley Sneijder and A.C. Milan’s Nigel de Jong show there’s plenty of star power to go around. Potential red flag: midfielders Rafael van der Vart (Hamburg) and Kevin Strootman (Roma) will miss the tournament because of injury. Both would have played a big part for the Dutch if healthy.
Player to watch: Spain's Diego Costa
The Atletico Madrid striker was born in Brazil and played in two friendlies for the country before pledging his soccer future to La Roja after being granted Spanish nationality in 2013. Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari responded by saying of Costa: “He is turning his back on a dream of millions, to represent our national team, the five-time champions, in a World Cup in Brazil.” A lethal finisher who scored 27 goals in 35 league matches this season, Costa is sure to be a marked man in his return home.
Your World Cup
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Graphic by Trish McAlaster