sport

Xavi ready for tough group

Spain midfielder Xavi has backed the world champions' tried and trusted style of play to bring them more success in Brazil as they prepare for their 2014 World Cup opener against 2010 runners-up Holland in Salvador.

Vicente del Bosque's side must later face Chile and Australia in Group B, and Barcelona star Xavi admitted he would have readily coped without dancing around the physicality of the Dutch first up but remained upbeat about their chances.

"We arrived here with a lot of enthusiasm even though we know the group will be very difficult," he said.

"Starting off against the previous runners-up is not easy.

"But we got here by remaining faithful to our style and so it will continue. Hopefully our style of play will bring us more success."

Andres Iniesta's extra-time goal at Soccer City four years ago denied the Oranje victory in the World Cup final and saw Spain follow up their triumph at Euro 2008 with ascension to the top of the world game.

Del Bosque even delivered a third trophy in 2012 as Spain trounced Italy to clinch the European title once again, this time in Kiev.

The 63-year-old's latest assignment demands he guides La Roja to another world crown with a group of players labelled by some critics as "veterans".

But he rejected that tag on Thursday, insisting the 23 men he has taken to Brazil represent a potent blend of maturity and fearless promise.

He told a press conference: "The World Cup starts now. If we can concentrate throughout 21 days then hopefully we will live up to the standards required of a world champion.

"I won't reveal tomorrow's line-up. We will use the players who we think are the best - but we do have 23 very good players.

"I don't think this is a team of veterans - I'd say we're mature. We're simply not afraid of anything and that's not just because of our past successes."

He added: "Holland have changed a lot over the last four years, but we have not."

The Dutch are more streetwise now than in 2010, according to captain Robin van Persie.

It was a third loss for Holland in the biggest game of them all, but Manchester United forward Van Persie believes the current squad have come a long way since their Johannesburg disappointment.

"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 www.onsoranje.nl.

"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."