Van Persie: Don't underestimate the Dutch
The Netherland are more streetwise now than when they tackled Spain in the 2010 World Cup final, according to captain Robin van Persie.
The Oranje will kick off their 2014 Group B campaign in Salvador on Friday against the champions, where defeat would leave Louis van Gaal's men with it all to do to qualify ahead of Chile and Australia.
Four years ago, the Netherlands, then coached by Bert van Marwijk, were beaten in extra-time by the Spaniards after what was a bruising encounter at Johannesburg.
It was a third loss for them in the biggest game of them all, but Manchester United forward Van Persie believes the current squad have come a long way since the disappointment of Soccer City.
"Spain have a fantastic team, with players like Diego Costa and [goalkeeper] David de Gea, my team-mate at Manchester United, and in my opinion have the best team in the world," Van Persie told the national side’s website.
"But we are also very good, so don't forget that and do not underestimate Holland.
"Although as a squad, we may be much younger than four years ago, there are also lots of opportunities.
"We have to prove ourselves again, but it is also a great challenge.
"In the past, what we often saw were jokes being made [within the squad] at the beginning, but now I think that is less and this is purely because of our focus.
"We are looking forward to it and are really eager to get started."
"For six years I have been playing with aches and pains, there is always something and I have learned to live with it" - Robin van Persie
Van Persie said he had faith in the team, saying, “if we - and I mean not only the players, but also the staff and the Dutch press - can say that we have had a very nice tournament, then whatever the outcome, for us the World Cup will have been more than successful."
Van Persie was troubled by fitness problems with his groin and knee during Manchester United's Barclays Premier League campaign.
However, the 30-year-old is not concerned over his ability to stand up to the rigours of what could well be his last World Cup finals tournament.
"The last few days I have trained fully and so have no more problems. I am ready for it," he said.
"Besides, for six years I have been playing with aches and pains, there is always something and I have learned to live with it."
Midfielder Nigel de Jong, meanwhile, says he will not allow anything to deflect his focus on the job in hand, with his studs-up tackle into the chest of Xabi Alonso during the 2010 final set to be replayed over and over ahead of Friday's showdown at the Arena Fonte Nova.
"I want to keep my mouth closed and let my football talk, so silence is the best cure," said the former Manchester City midfielder, now with AC Milan.
"That is one of the two things I have from my home, the second is always fight harder than the person next to you.
"I always go with a positive feeling to play for Oranje, always with confidence in my own ability and in my own qualities."
De Jong, 29, feels the Netherlands have what it takes to cause an upset if they stick to their footballing ethos.
"You should not just get carried away that Spain is better than the Dutch team," he said.
"You need to look at how best you can fight against them and how best you can comply with the Dutch school of football."