World Cup Special #2: GROUP B

by Ray_North on March 26, 2014

Unknown-1278 days left. 78 days left to dream.

So, let’s move on to the second group of the 2014 World Cup – Group B – Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia. Oh My God. My mouth is watering at the prospect of this one. The Group of Death? Not quite, but certainly, the group of violent assault.

SPAIN
HOLLAND
CHILE
AUSTRALIA

Who’s going to win this one?
Who are the players to watch out for? And, how amazing is the re-run of the last world cup final going to be? As I said, just 78 days left. So, enough of the hyperbole, let’s look at the runners and riders, and let’s start with the holders Espana.

SPAIN
Spain won the last World Cup playing a brand of football that basically saw them keep the ball, pass it amongst themselves for about 88 minutes and score a goal as and when they had to. It was pretty to watch, incredibly difficult to beat and, actually, incredibly demanding on the players who had to demonstrate fantastic levels of technical skill to keep the ball, and endurance to press the other team to get it back if, which didn’t happen very often, they lost it.

In players such as Busquets, Xabi, Iniesta and Alonso they had the ideal players to play this sort of game. And, frighteningly for the other nations in this world cup, all these players, together with Fabregas, Silva, Negredo and others are all still available to the national coach – their experience is just frightening, with no less than six players in the squad with over 100 caps.

But can they still do it?

I don’t think so – first, history suggests that European teams do not win the World Cup in South America, and second, the World Cup is very rarely successfully defended – only Italy in the 1930 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962 have managed it. But, perhaps the main reason for my doubting that the Spanish will reclaim the title is my hunch that, although they are clearly still an amazing team, their style of play may no longer take teams by surprise, whilst their players though experienced, are also quite old, and a six week tournament in the heat of Brazil may take it’s toll.

We shall see.

In any event, the game against Holland will be a belter, whilst I can’t see them having any trouble defeating Chile and Australia – later on, things may start to get tough.Unknown-6

Players to watch: well, who don’t you want to watch? I like the new striker Diego Costa (pictured) – Liverpool wanted him last summer and I’ve a feeling we’ll see why by the end of the tournament.

Holland

The World Cup wouldn’t be the same without the Dutch, they bring with them, colour, sparkle, pedigree, mad supporters and, more often than not, a monumental squad bust up when they all fall out with eachother.

As ever they will be incredibly pleasing on the eye with their brand of languid skilful fluid football and they will score some spectacular goals (if you look through the archive some of the greatest goals in World Cup history have been scored by the Dutch). Incredibly the Dutch have never won the World Cup, despite having contested three finals. Will they go on to win it this time? No, not in my opinion – Unknown-7although in players such as Van Persie and Robben they have genuine world class and abundance of goals, they, as has often been the case, lack one or two players in key positions to win the thing, whilst the squad overall isn’t as good as the one that reached the final in 2010.

Players to watch – They’ll miss the Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman, who is out with injury, so I’m interested in seeing the lightening quick Jean Paul Boetius (above).

Chile

Chile always qualify, always play good tough football and are always difficult to beat. In the past they have benefitted from having one or two genuinely world class players such as Marcello Salas and Ivan Zamorano and in 2010, they reached the round of 16, but, despite their history and their quality, I fear that overcoming Holland and Spain to qualify from Group B, may prove too difficult a task. Saying this, however, in the last twelve months head coach, the wonderfully bald, Sampola, has won 10 and drawn 3 of his 15 games in charge, which is encouraging, but he has called up almost fifty players, which suggests that he isn’t sure of the talent that is available to him.

Unknown-8The likes of Beausejour, Jara, Isla and Madel will be difficult to break down, whilst Alexis Sanchez’s trickery will be a handful for any defence.

Players to watch – look out for the very clever and talented Charles Aranguiz.

Australia

I’m afraid that the Soccer’s may end up as the whipping boys of this group. Although they will be muscular and athletic, they won’t have the craft or guile to break down the Chileans or outscore the Dutch, whilst I can’t even see them getting the ball against the Spanish.

Their recent results haven’t been too clever either. Last year they struggled in the East Asia Cup and recently lost 6-0 against both Brazil and France.

Their manager is Ange Postecoglu, who doesn’t appear to have a great deal of experience outside Australia, but is highly regarded there.

Of course, don’t rule out the Aussies having a couple of halves of football, but, I fear that that is all they’ll muster – and will be home by the end of week three.

Unknown-10Players to watch – it’ll be nice to see Tim Cahill and Luke Wilshire back in action, but keep an eye on Tommy Oar, a young playmaker who was the young player of the year in Australia in 2010, and has recently been playing with Utrecht in the Dutch league.

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