Del Bosque: Spain still have WC drive
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque insists his previously all-conquering side still has the hunger necessary to become only the third nation to retain their World Cup crown.
La Roja come into the competition having won their last three major international tournaments, with key members of the squad -- Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, David Silva, Sergio Ramos, David Villa and Fernando Torres -- all having won the 2008 and 2012 European Championships, as well as the 2010 World Cup.
Despite boasting such impressive CVs, there have been questions in the build-up to the finals in Brazil about whether Spain might now be ageing team lacking the drive required to win another major trophy.
But Del Bosque was keen to reject that notion when questioned at his pregame news conference in Salvador on Thursday.
"These players have made history with the national team," Del Bosque said. "Some were youth champions back in 1999 in Nigeria [Casillas and Xavi]. But this is not a veteran side, it is mature with some younger players. We have only about five who are over 30. So we have no fear of anything like that. We hope we are at the level to defend this star we wear."
Del Bosque was cagier when asked if he had decided yet whether to play Brazil-born Diego Costa as a traditional centre-forward against the Dutch, or opt for a "false nine" such as new Chelsea signing Fabregas.
"We will not give out the line-up today, not to keep any secrets, but as we think the 23 players are ready to start," he said. "We will play the 11 players we think are best for this occasion. You can play with a reference player right up on the offside line, or with someone who moves more between the lines. Both systems have gone well for us. And we have the players to use in any system of play."
The confirmation of Fabregas' big money move from Barcelona to Chelsea on the eve of the game would not have any bearing on his selection decisions, Del Bosque suggested.
"It is the summer so there can be transfers," the Spain coach said. "But we do not let it interfere at all in the mood for the game."
There is also a selection call to make at right-back between Cesar Azpilicueta and Juanfran Torres, while Jordi Alba should start on the other side of Spain's defence despite suffering from foot blister as well as wisdom tooth problems this week.
"I am concerned because it hurts a lot, but it will not affect at all his performance," Del Bosque said. "It is true though the kid is having tough time with his wisdom tooth."
The former Real Madrid coach had words of praise for Netherlands boss Louis Van Gaal, whom he remembered meeting when the soon-to-be Manchester United manager was in charge of Barcelona in La Liga over a decade ago.
"Holland have in charge a real football man, who I respect a lot," Del Bosque said. "He conserves a lot of the essence of Dutch football, particularly with the players up front. The team has changed a lot in four years. But they are a team with a 'school' and a tradition. They always play well in World Cups."