2014 Fifa World Cup: Group B preview – Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia
Group B has the possibility to offer up an upset or two and, if you’re the betting type, you might fancy a punt on Chile to progress ahead of the Netherlands. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
Group B could be one of the most interesting groups in the 2014 World Cup. It is almost one of the most important groups to win. Even if you don’t care about the big teams and the plucky Chileans, South Africans who like to indulge in cross-continental Schadenfreude can always indulge in this group if for no other reason than to laugh at Australia. Only, as we have learnt from Bafana, do not dance until you know for certain what the results are.
Who is playing and what are their odds to advance?
Group B is an interesting one with Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia playing each other. Pitting the finalists for the 2010 World Cup together early on offers the perfect, lazy "revenge" narrative before the tournament even gets properly tasty. Sports betting site Pinnacle has the following odds for the teams:
Winning this group is very important
Of course topping groups will be important for everyone, but winning Group B is quite crucial. That's because the second-placed team in Group B will face the team who finishes first in Group A. Barring some sort of injury or other catastrophe, that team is likely to be Brazil. Spain were thumped in the final of the Confederations Cup by Brazil last year and, as tournament hosts and a side with some pretty good players, Brazil are favourites.
That seems a fairly cruel prospect for whoever finishes second, but this is the World Cup and World Cups have absolutely no mercy.
Vamos, Spain, but adios tika-taka?
Spain are another tournament favourite, despite their capitulation in last year's Confed Cup final. Many consider them to be one of the best national teams ever. Having won two Euro titles and as the current World Champs, many who are without a team at this World Cup will feel quite partial to adopting them.
Spain's tika-taka will come under scrutiny in the group stages. The style of football has copped some criticism lately, especially with how one-dimensional Spain were made to look with this approach last year. This will be the Spanish footballing philosophy’s biggest test. Is it finally time to bury it?
Let’s all laugh at Australia
Actually, let’s rather not. The Aussies are playing in their third consecutive World Cup (what can you say about that, South Africa?). They have had a different coach every single time they have appeared at the finals and probably won’t make it out of the group stage, but at least they managed to qualify. They recently played South Africa in a 1-1 draw in a rather sluggish match (although, it is hard to tell exactly how sluggish since the visuals on SABC 1 is like watching a VHS). Australia might not make it out of the group stages, but hey, at least they managed to qualify.
Chances of an upset?
If you were a betting person, it might be worth gambling a few bob on Chile to progress ahead of the Netherlands. Chile have never played the Netherlands, but in their most recent outing against Spain, they managed a plucky 2-2 draw. They have never beaten La Roja, but a draw and a win over both Australia and the Netherlands is entirely possible.
Players to watch
Diego Costa (Spain): This has the potential to get feisty. If Spain top the group as expected and progress to the next round, then Diego Costa is going to be given a pretty hard time. Born in Brazil and having played for Brazil before, he chose Spain over his native country in 2013 after being granted Spanish nationality. He did make the provisional Spain squad, but a hamstring injury might hamper his chances of making the final cut. The naming of the 23-man squad had been delayed which will allow Costa some more time to shape up.
Arjen Robben (Netherlands): Many will remember Robben for the wasted chance during the 2010 World Cup final. With Robben van Persie, he is part of the outgoing old guard of the Dutch team. Best known for dribbling down the right, cutting inside and firing a left-footed cross into top corners, Robben can cause some headaches for defences.
Alexis Sanchez (Chile): Barcelona love him and this feisty forward is arguably Chile’s most valuable attack weapon. Sanchez loves nothing more than putting on a show when he is on the big stage. When Chile beat England in November last year, Sanchez scored both goals. "The Wonder Boy" has scored 39 goals in 88 appearances for Barca with 19 of those coming this season.
Mile Jedinak (Australia): The Crystal Palace captain had an impressive domestic season in the English Premier League. While everyone knows the name "Tim Cahill", Jedinak is a robust defensive midfielder who is central to Australia’s game plan.
After the Netherlands lost the 2010 final to Spain, Dutch legend Johan Cruyff was not happy. The Dutch have often been praised for playing “graceful” football, but they took a somewhat different approach in 2010.
"Holland chose an ugly path to aim for the title. This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style, yes it served the Dutch to unsettle Spain. If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they ended up losing. They were playing anti-football." DM
Photo: Spain's Iker Casillas lifts up the trophy after defeating Italy to win the Euro 2012 final soccer match at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, July 1, 2012. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach