Group B should be a little more competitive than Group A, as it features the two finalists from 2010 in Spain (reigning champions) and the Netherlands (runner up) and a third solid team in Chile. Sorry, Australia, but things don’t look too good for you. Let’s take a look.
National Anthem: La Marcha Real
Coach: Vicente del Bosque
Best Showing at A World Cup: Champions, 2010
All you really need to know about Spain is that they won the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. That alone makes them among the favorites to win it in Brazil this summer. In 2010, this was one of the best teams ever assembled. While everyone is four years older, they’re not necessarily too old to rip off another World Cup win. Everything starts with the head coach, and Vicente del Bosque is one of the most experienced in the world. Spain moves the ball down the pitch like no other team, and del Bosque’s style has a lot to do with it. With their scientific style, they held the ball for 74.3% of the qualifying games, and led all nations with 849 passes.
Obviously, they finished first in the European qualifying Group I, going unbeaten in the process. If you want to talk about key players for this squad, there are lots of good ones. Cesc Fabregas, who plays for Barcelona, has become one of the best midfielders in the world. There’s also Andres Iniesta, new comer Cristian Tello, Fernando Torres (although he’s fallen on some hard times), Gerard Pique, David Silva and goalie and Captain Iker Casillas, who is one of the best goalies in the world. Spain is stacked, and once again ready to make a run.
National Anthem: Het Wilhelmus
Coach: Louis Van Gaal
Best Shwoing at A World Cup: Always a bridesmaid… runners up in 1974, 1978 and 2010
Last time around, Holland aka the Netherlands, knocked out my Uruguayan fellows and then lost the finals to Spain. That marked the third time Holland has finished second in a World Cup, including twice in a row in the 70s. That’s gotta suck, right? To be so close and yet so far away? It’s like rain on your wedding day or a free ride that you just didn’t take; because those things are tragic, and not ironic in the least.
Anyway, Holland finished first in the European Group D, and boasts some solid players, but their team runs through 75 year old Arjen Robben. What? He’s only 30? You mean he was only 26 during the last World Cup? Are you being ironic? Seriously though, Robben is definitely Holland’s best player, and was one of the stars of South Africa in 2010. Despite looking like he was around for the two other times Holland finished runner-up at the World Cup, he plays like the spry young man wikipedia says he is. He has won league titles in England, Spain and Germany, and is looking to add another trophy to his case. Also, don’t forget about Captain Robin van Persie. As a former Golden Boot winner for Manchester United, van Persie is one of the best strikers in the EPL, and led all European qualifyers in goals, with 11.
Holland can score with the best teams, but their defense could prove to be the weakness that keeps them from getting over the championship hump in Brazil.
National Anthem: Himno Nacional de Chile
Coach: Jorge Sampaoli
Best Showing at A World Cup: Third Place, 1962
Coach Jorge Sampaoli, an Argentine by birth (I know, why would anyone invite an Argentine into their country, am I right?), plays what he has called a “basketball” style of play. If you’ve ever seen a basketball game, you know that one team runs down the court and scores, and then the other team does the same thing. Chile led the South American qualifying in goals on their way to finishing third in the CONMEBOL qualifying. Unfortunately, they also gave up the most goals. The name of the game, however, is to score more goals than your opponent, and Chile’s up tempo counterattacking style will make them tough to deal with.
Gary Medel, who is playing out of position on defense, has been very helpful in trying to stabilize that defense. It’s a tall order, but he’s done an admirable job without a lot of help. On offense, teams need to watch out for Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, who run the powerful Chilean attack without mercy. At the end of the day, I think defense wins championships. In this case, Chile’s defense could lose them a chance at the title. Either way, I know I’ll be watching their games. i like a good 6-5 matchup!
National Anthem: Advance Australia Fair
Coach: Angelos Postecoglou
Best Showing at A World Cup:Round of 16 in 2006
Let’s face it here, folks; Australia got a little screwed with this group draw. They managed to get into a group with the two runners up from last year who also won their qualifying groups, and one of the better teams in South America to boot. Does it even matter what Australia has to offer here? Probably not, but let’s talk about it anyway, so that we’re not caught unawares in case a miracle happens and the Aussies make it through this group.
They qualified for the cup by finishing second in Asia, which is actually pretty OK. Their coach, Angelos Postecoglou, who replaced German national Holger Osieck in October, is one of the more successful coaches in domestic Australia, most recently being named coach of the Melbourne Victory in April of 2012. Unfortunately for Postecoglou, he inherited a team full of weaknesses; from defense to scoring to player age, nothing works quite right for Australia.
One key players for Australia Tim Cahill, who is 34 and currently plays for the New York Red Bulls of the MLS. You can see why I think age is a bit of a problem for this squad. If there’s one younger player to watch out for, its 22-year old striker Mathew Leckie, who has been turning some heads in Germany with Frankfurt. It’s not gonna be pretty for Australia. Sorry to Paul Hogan, Yahoo Serious and Mel Gibson. Better luck in 2018.
I’d hate to pick the obvious, but I usually tend to side with the teams that are either playing really well now, have a record of World Cup successes or both. I think Spain is definitely too good to stumble in the group stage. While Chile has a shot to upset Holland, I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year. Spain and Holland advance, while Chile and Australia go home.
Featured image courtesy of: Totally Cool Pix
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