SBI World Cup Preview: Group B

AndresIniestaSpain1-ElSalvador2014 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

European nations have famously never won a World Cup staged in South America, but Spain is bidding to become the first.

Even with their core starting to show signs of slowing down, La Furia Roja brings a stacked squad with them to Brazil, ready to defend their 2010 World Cup title. And that core with the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Sergio Ramos, has added two Atletico Madrid players who could play a huge role at this World Cup: Koke and Brazilian-born forward Diego Costa.

While Spain enters the tournament as the odds-on favorites to win the group, both the Netherlands and Chile are expected to give the Spanish a run for their money. The Dutch may have imploded at the 2012 European Championships but Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie, and co. are hoping that they can rediscover the greatness from their 2010 campaign, which took them to the final.

Holland has history on its side too, coming so close to winning the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Chile, though, has a group of players entering their prime and a tactical philosophy that favors attacking at all costs, which will make the Chileans the neutral’s favorite for the World Cup. Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas, and Arturo Vidal will have plenty of people clamoring for La Roja to finish second in the group and face a possible match against host Brazil.

Many folks around the world aren’t giving much of a chance to Australia but after an underwhelming qualifying campaign, Tim Cahill and his side are hoping to shock the world when they face Spain, Chile, and the Netherlands.

Here’s a closer look at Group B:

WORLD CUP GROUP B

SCHEDULE

6/13 – Spain vs. Netherlands; 6/13 – Chile vs. Australia; 6/18 – Australia vs. Netherlands; 6/18 – Spain vs. Chile; 6/23 – Australia vs. Spain; 6/23 – Netherlands vs. Chile.

TOP PLAYERS TO WATCH

Australia: Tim Cahill, Mile Jedinak, Tommy Oar, Matthew Špiranović

Chile: Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Eduardo Vargas, Gary Medel

Netherlands: Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Jordy Clasie

Spain: Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Diego Costa, Sergio Ramos

YOUNG PLAYERS TO WATCH

Australia: Tommy Oar

Chile: Felipe Gutierrez

Netherlands: Memphis Depay

Spain: Koke

SBI’s PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1. Spain. If the defending World Cup champions have a healthy Diego Costa up top, watch out.

2. Chile. Playing on home soil, Chile will seize second place from the Netherlands in the final match of the group stage.

3. Netherlands. A talented side will ultimately fail to make it to the second round due to defensive shortcomings and struggles in a new formation.

4. Australia. Australia’s focus is on Asian Cup 2015. They’ll go three-and-out in Brazil.

The defending World Cup champions return to the tournament with a stacked squad and it’s tough to bet against them running the table, even against difficult opponents in the Netherlands and Chile. Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta are coming off worse-than-expected seasons for Barcelona but the duo have always picked up their game for Spain. Adding Diego Costa to the mix makes them favorites to make the semifinals, especially with Spain playing a majority of games in the cooler Southeast of Brazil. The likely showdown match for second place will take place on June 23 when the Netherlands play Chile in Sao Paulo. Both teams have major defensive questions and stars in attack, so plenty of goals should be expected. It could go either way, but we feel Chile will do just enough to move ahead of the Netherlands and advance from the group.

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How do you see Group B finishing? Do you see Spain finishing as the top side? Think that Chile can beat out the Netherlands? What do you expect from the Socceroos at the tournament?

Share your thoughts below.

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12 Responses to SBI World Cup Preview: Group B

  1. Bradley's Missing Mop says:

    Chile is not playing on home soil. They are playing a lot closer to home than others in the group…..

    Almost everyone is picking Chile, and predicting an orange melt down. I have spent a lot of time mulling this group and still have yet to make a pick in my brackets….

    • Increase says:

      On Chile,

      If Vidal is healthy, they go through.

      If Vidal isn’t healthy, they don’t.

      I really think its that simple in the group. After that… its chaos so whatever.

      • Roberto says:

        You really need know very little about Chile…Chile has more than Vidal and in his place they have a very good replacement; Charles Aranguiz who is the number 10 in inter Porto Alegre of Brazil he is good defensively and offensively, He’s has nastiness and can pickpocket you anytime and he is sooo good on the ball…I know in the US cheating and diving is not accepted … but in the rest of the world its part of the game….otherwise go become a choirboy….Chile Does not only depend on one player….Sanchez, Valdivia, Diaz, Edu Vargas, Aranguiz….Medel

        • Increase says:

          Yes, but Vidal is maybe the best box to box Mid in the world. Its a big drop off from him.

          To ignore the Netherlands is also not wise… and Robin Van Persie is somewhat injured too. So.. maybe thats the difference. Then again… Huntelaar is rather good too.

          I don’t blame Chile for the little fouls they do. It’s smart and its not dangerous. I saw their game against England and most of the Germany game. Anytime it looks like England would get to a attack someone did a little push or pull on an English player and the attack stopped.

          It will be close.

        • Increase says:

          BTW I have Spain for #1 and Chile for #2 on my bracket. It’s a great group.

          • Roberto says:

            For Chile This has to happen;
            1) Beware of counter attacks remember WC send off game vs Egypt?
            2) Get over Vidal dependency and remember there is other players and a “style” of play they must continue to impose, Cause Vidal might not make it
            3) Have respect for the history and pedigree of the world and vice word champion ….but not TOO much respect either.
            4) Chile does have tall defenders so they got to really watch out even w Australia

            For Spain;
            1)Costa and David Silva if in top form can really really go far and even win it…thats about it..

            For Holland:
            1) Defensively they are weak and aren’t even a clockwork mandarin. But Holland is Holland and w Van Persie in top form they can be a top four team…it just seems Robben and Snejder dont look too motivated to be in a WC..whats wrong with those two?

            Australia: I just know very little about them, other than Cahill, for that reason they should be taken very seriously

            • Roberto says:

              I meant; Chile does NOT have tall defenders

              • Increase says:

                Chile has the shortest team in the world cup.

                176.022 cm average.

                You are right about Holland. Their weakness is mostly eachother. I wouldn’t worry too much about Australia.

                I want to add one for Chile:
                Focus on not getting Yellow cards against Australia. You will need all your players for the other two games.

    • frank from santiago says:

      Bradley’s Missing Mop…not home for chile….technically, but the stadium will be red all over, make in it a home match, basically.

  2. Roberto says:

    Chile can easily finish first too… Spain Isn’t what it used to be; Iniesta, Xavi are getting old..Pique does not have any hips left after spending way too much time w Shakira and they’ve won everything there is to win. Plus the weather..But it’s so hard to predict, anything can happen Chile may also have stage freight and pressure themselves…very diificult group to predict, But Chile is so talented right now, they just need to be on top defensively cause they sure like to attack way up there

  3. Dan says:

    As much as Spain has gotten older and are not as good as they used to be they are still the best team in that group by miles. Lets not forget that La Liga just dominated the Champion’s League and many of those players are on the Spanish national team.

    As for 2nd I have a hard time not picking the Dutch. Sure they are questionable at the back but when weren’t they? They have always been a poor defensive team in recent history. Chile looks very strong though so this is tough. I am leaning Dutch but I might change my pick at the last minute.