The World Cup’s second group is undoubtedly much more interesting than Group A. With three fantastic football nations vying for progression into the knockout rounds, this is the type of group where anything can happen.
With three nations (including the reigning champions) going head-to-head for progression, this is a group that you will not want to miss. Expect some fantastic games, and maybe a surprise or two.
Here are your Group B competitors:
Spain (Ranked 1st in FIFA’s World Ranking)
The conquerors of world football, La Furia Roja are back in action again, looking to defend their World Cup crown and add another trophy to their increasingly impressive collection.
Having won the last three major international tournaments (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012) Spain will be feeling invincible. And rightly so – it will take something incredible to deny their assault for the trophy.
Despite age finally catching up with some of Spain’s iconic players (like Puyol and Xaxi) there is a depth to Spain’s squad that makes other countries green with envy. Manager Vincente Del Bosque has the sort of talent that could build three different starting XI’s.
Spain have become a possesion-based team under Del Bosque, bringing Barcelona’s tiki taka style to the international stage with devastating effect. With so much quality in midfield, it would be a surprise to see anything different from the Spaniards this year. Expect them to dominate games yet again.
Player to watch: Coming off the back of a double-winning season, Manchester City’s integral mastermind David Silva will be primed to take up the creative reins for Spain. Silva will be tasked with unlocking teams that will inevitably bunker under the weight of Spain’s attack, and when in form, there is no stopping the diminutive playmaker.
Predicted group finish: First place. Group B is a very tough group, but Spain’s experience and quality should be enough to see them through. Even with great teams like Chile and Netherlands, Spain will likely take top spot in this group.
Predicted overall finish: After a plethora of international success, Spain will be confident of competing once again. They’ll be among the favourites to win the whole thing, and you would expect them to at least secure a place in the semifinals. Many people would love to see Spain’s dominance end, and that may well happen this tournament – but count out La Furia Roja at your own peril.
Netherlands (Ranked 15th in FIFA’s World Ranking)
The pioneers of “total football” are perennial underachievers – they constantly have fantastic teams and play attractive football, but they’ve yet to have success in the World Cup.
The Oranje were runners up in 2010, but that’s as close as they’ve come to lifting the historic trophy. Louis Van Gaal’s men will be looking to make amends and finally end their history of falling just short.
Their squad is rather interesting – it’s an unusual blend of almost-veterans and not-quite youngsters. While players like Robben and Van Persie are now the undoubted experienced players in the squad, the Netherlands are bringing a great deal more players who fall somewhere in between.
The truth is that, this summer at least, the Dutch don’t boast anything overly exciting or interesting. Kevin Strootman’s injury is a massive blow, and they just don’t seem to have the quality to replace him. It seems like their best days are behind them – they’ll regret that World Cup final of 2010 for a long time; it may be the chance they threw away.
Player to watch: This season, we’ve once again seen the best of Arjen Robben. Bayern Munich’s renowned winger has time and time again produced his trademark runs down the right flank, cutting in and unleashing the fury of his left boot. A Netherlands side in transition will need to rely on the ability of Robben in his prime if they are to achieve success.
Predicted group finish: Third place. This sounds controversial, and perhaps it is. But this is unlikely to be the time when the men in orange end their trophy drought. With question marks over their defence, and many of their attacking players at the tail end of their careers, they could lose second spot somebody else in the group.
Which brings us to the third team in Group B:
Chile (Ranked 14th in FIFA’s World Ranking)
When many neutral football fans think about South American football the names Brazil and Argentina are usually the first to come to mind, and lately, even Uruguay has gained recognition. Chile haven’t been talked about much in the build-up to this world cup – and they can use that to their advantage.
Chile qualified third in the CONMEBOL qualifying groups, showcasing their quality and laying down a marker – the Chileans will not be dismissed easily, they are a genuine dark horse at this World Cup.
A few of Chile’s players have even become mainstays at some of Europe’s biggest clubs (like Barcelona and Juventus), and these players will be key for Chile at the World Cup.
Boasting the likes of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, Chile are certainly nothing to scoff at. As the Netherlands will likely find out the hard way, Chile’s combativeness group of players are here on merit, and they mean business.
Player to watch: Chile’s trump card has to be midfielder Arturo Vidal – the fiery, box-to-box midfielder has been the general of Juventus’ midfield, and Chile will need him to continue bossing opposing midfielders. “King Arturo” can pass, tackle, shoot and dictate the tempo of games. There are few midfielders better on the planet, and Chile will need the jewel in their crown to be at his best.
Predicted group finish: Second place. The Chileans will surprise people at this World Cup, and with world-class players among their ranks, they will certainly be a hard team to handle. Playing in a familiar climate will help, too, and they could come out on top in the battle for second spot.
Predicted overall finish: Progressing from Group B in second place would likely earn Chile a round-of-16 match against none other than Brazil, and although the Chileans would put up a good fight, they would be unlikely to progress any further than the first round of the knockout stages.
Australia (Ranked 62nd in FIFA’s World Ranking)
Having qualified for their third World Cup in a row, the Australians have much to be proud of. With limited football resources, the men from down under have done exceptionally well just to get to the World Cup.
Having said that, they’re likely to go out the same way they did last World Cup – in the group stages, without much of a fight.
It’s unfortunate for the Socceroos to be placed in one of the World Cup’s toughest groups this year, but it seems likely that they’ll end up being the whipping boys of the group.
It’d take something miraculous for this team of mostly Australia-based footballers to make it out of the group, but if they set up their team correctly, they could influence the outcome of the group by taking a point off of Netherlands or Chile.
Player to watch: With all of the attacking talent in Group B’s other teams, Australia will have to look to break down play to have any chance of walking out of this group with anything other than three losses. In midfielder Mile Jedinak, they have a player capable of helping out with that. The Crystal Palace captain is a true gritty midfielder, and he’s going to need to get stuck in for his country at this World Cup.
Predicted group finish: Last place. This group has three very good teams, and unfortunately for Australia, they aren’t one of them. Anything other than fourth place in this group would be considered a success.