RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Netherlands players did what many visitors do when they first arrive in Rio — hit the beach. Then, it was down to business as the 2010 World Cup runners-up began preparations for a campaign to finally win the trophy their country craves.
After arriving in Rio on a red-eye flight early Friday, Louis van Gaal's 23-man squad went to its hotel on the swanky Ipanema beach and almost immediately crossed the busy street to freshen up with a walk in the sand.
Later in the afternoon, Van Gaal said he was impressed with how quickly his players were adjusting to the World Cup "while we're trying to keep them awake as long as possible so we can get into the rhythm of Brazil."
Van Gaal's only injury worry appears to be midfielder Jonathan de Guzman, who trained lightly. Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben left the training pitch early, but Van Gaal said he was not injured.
The team captain and Netherlands' all-time top scorer Robin van Persie appeared fit after being substituted as a precaution halfway through the team's final tune-up match before flying to Brazil, a 2-0 win over Wales on Wednesday.
Van Gaal said the Manchester United striker has a painful groin.
"It is not an injury, but he can feel it. He has been feeling it for a long time," he said.
"He plays with it and he has always played with it. Every player has pains."
The Netherlands opens its campaign in Group B on June 13 with a mouthwatering matchup with Spain in Salvador — a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg that Spain won 1-0 thanks to an extra-time goal by Andres Iniesta.
Van Gaal said he has switched away from the traditional Dutch attacking 4-3-3 system he has long been a champion of to a 5-3-2 formation in a bid to stifle Spain's attacking play.
"It's because of Spain. Because of the qualities of Spain," he said. "Mostly the attacking qualities. We want to make the space narrow, so that's the reason."