As we continue to anxiously await for the World Cup, GrandstandU will preview Group B as part of its Path to the World Cup series. Spain is the defending World Cup champions and the odds-on favorite to win the group, which includes strong teams in the Netherlands and Chile, both of which will put up a strong fight against the No. 1 ranked team in FIFA’s World Rankings.
Spain: The biggest question facing Spain, barring a massive collapse, is whether it has what it takes to win the World Cup again, not if it can advance. Spain’s squad is fantastic from its strikers and midfielders to defenders and goalkeeper, and mixes experience with youth. Despite losing to Brazil in the Confederations Cup, Spain, under head coach Vicente Del Bosque, has won two Euro Cups and the 2010 World Cup. While not impossible to achieve its second consecutive World Cup title, Spain has no margin for error and must play its best. The loss to Brazil was a wake-up call proving Spain is not invincible. Some key players to watch for are Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. The duo is well known for its chemistry and ability to score magnificent goals.
Netherlands: Despite being the runner-ups in the World Cup 2010, the Dutch had a terrible campaign in the Euro Cup 2012. The team crumbled, losing its composure, when it encountered top tier teams like Germany, Portugal and Denmark. Now the squad looks more composed and in better shape under head coach Louis Van Gaal. One of the biggest strengths the Netherlands possesses is their experienced players. Van Gaal’s knowledgeable coaching skills should reunite the players and mold the squad into a competitive team that should advance, provided the Netherlands returns to its previous World Cup form. The Netherlands, however, must be wary of Chile who is primed for an upset. Players to look out for are Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben as the three combined can be lethal to their opponents.
Chile: Coming into this World Cup as the team that might surprise, Chile had quite a successful campaign during the CONMEBOL, finishing in third place. Some of the advantages Chile has going into the World Cup are the weather and the aggressive attacking style employed by head coach Jorge Sampaoli. If Chile wants to advance to the Round of 16, its defense needs to step up or else Chile runs the risk of missing out. Chile’s ultimate fate might rest with Arturo Vidal, who is coming off an incredible season with Juventus and can create the scoring opportunities Chile needs to knock off Spain or the Netherlands.
Australia: Australia is an enigma because of how it qualified for the World Cup. To put it simply, Australia experience a run of pure luck. Australia didn’t shine during the qualifying rounds, lost a friendly 6-0 to France, fired head coach Holger Osieck and acquired Ange Postecoglou. The Socceroos are caught at a complete disadvantage with their new coach, who they haven’t worked with much, and a squad lacking in talent compared to the other three Group B teams. Most players don’t play on a similar level to Europe and many are older. Tim Cahill, Australia’s all-time leading scorer, will cause some damage, but barring a miracle, Australia will be eliminated from the World Cup with three straight defeats.
Winner of Group B: Spain (will play runner-up of Group A)
Runner-up of Group B: Netherlands (will play winner of Group A)
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|World Cup – Group A Schedule|
|Friday, June 13, 2014||Spain||Netherlands||3:00 p.m.||ESPN|
|Friday, June 13, 2014||Chile||Australia||6:00 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Wednesday, June 18, 2014||Australia||Netherlands||12:00 p.m.||ESPN|
|Wednesday, June 18, 2014||Spain||Chile||3:00 p.m.||ESPN|
|Thursday, June 26, 2014||Netherlands||Chile||12:00 p.m.||ESPN|
|Thursday, June 26, 2014||Australia||Spain||12:00 p.m.||ESPN2|