Sharing group with Holland ‘no surprise’

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Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque has revealed that his pre-tournament prediction proved correct after the world champions were drawn to meet Holland in their opening game of next summer’s World Cup.

Del Bosque told friends before yesterday’s draw that he expected to be paired against the Oranje –who they beat 1-0 to lift the Jules Rimet trophy in a stormy encounter 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,” said Del Bosque.

“I told some close friends that we would get Holland in the first game and that is how it turned out. Holland have changed the way they play but they 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.

“I imagine Brazil will be first, so we have to look to be the first too,” added Del Bosque.

Holland boss Louis van Gaal admitted his side face a tough task to progress.

But he did find some relief in the fact that they avoided playing in the heat and humidity of northern Brazil, while the likes of England and Italy have not been so fortunate.

“It’s a tough draw in terms of the opponents we will face, but in terms of the conditions, it is okay,” said van Gaal.

“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.”

Lionel Messi’s Argentina – who are managed by former Sheffield United and Leeds United forward Alex Sabella – were dealt a kind hand against Iran, Nigeria and debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group F.

Commenting on the draw, Sabella said: “It was a positive draw.

“I can’t say anything else, although football is football and you still need to play the games.

“But it could have been a lot worse,” he told gathered media.

“We must now begin to put together a more detailed study of our opponents.

“We’ve already seen Bosnia because we played them a short time ago, but we know very little of Iran.

“As for Nigeria, we know what the African teams are all about. We’ve come across in previous World Cups and they are very strong physically.”

France, who only qualified for the competitions after progressing through the play-offs recently, were also handed a favourable draw against Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras.