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FIFA World Cup 2014: Preview and Predictions - Group B

A Winter's Tale

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Group B is one of the standout groups in this year's World Cup. It has the reigning world and european champions - and the strongest side in international football - Spain who will be looking to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to successfully defend their title. They are against the Netherlands, Spain's opponents in the 2010 World Cup final, who have a poor team by their standards and could disappoint in the group stage. Then we have Chile, one of the dark horses, who are a talented team and could go far in competition. Australia are of the poorest teams in the competition - a weaker side than of previous years - could have a really heard time at the foot of group b.

The Spain team of the last 6 years will undoubtably go down as one of the greatest in the history of international football. Two european championships and a first World Cup triumph, plus being at the top of the world rankings for much of the last 6 years, has made Spain one of the most successful teams ever and their high technical, ball retaining skills will be a brand talked about for decades to come - although they have had their critics for over emphasis on passing and keeping the ball. Spain have the best squad in the competition and are still the team to beat, but the 2013 confederations cup final 3-0 defeat by Brazil would have inflicted on some doubts on Spain's chances on retaining their world title. Spain's place in football history is secure, but they need to win the World Cup to be considered on the same platform or even better than the golden era of Brazil football 1958-70. And if Spain want to remain being considered as a team challenging and capable of continuing to win tournaments, they need to reach at least the semi finals. The squad attempting to make history is comprised of: 14 from Spain (7 from Barcelona, 4 from Athletico Madrid, 3 from Real Madrid); 6 from England (2 from Manchester United and Chelsea, 1 from arsenal and manchester City); 2 from Italy (Napoli) and 1 from Germany (bayern Munich). Spain in the build up to euro 2012 in Poland/Ukraine were seen as a team slightly passed their best and they played the competition without an obvious striker (which could feature this year) but went on to beat Italy 4-0 in the final. Looking at the squad and the names left out of it there is a huge array of talent and bit of variety as well. They've got good goalkeepers, a decent defence, an abundance of top quality midfielders - giving Vincent del bosque a real head- ache - and they do have goal scorers. A midfield with players such as mata, silva, iniesta and co offers plenty of technical ability. But there is a feeling the Spanish philosophy is no longer as effective. This could be compounded by players who are past their best such as xavi and villa. Not selecting Jesus navas reduces pace and natural width and they could struggle to score a lot of goals. If Spain's flaws are exposed and taken advantage of then chile could win the group or if things go badly wrong then the netherlands.

My pick to finish 2nd from group B is Chile, the south American dark horses. In South Africa, didn't score many goals but this year Chile takes a stronger and more fancied team to Brazil and if they progress to the last 16 as I expect them too, then they could go very far indeed. The Chile squad is made up of players spread out all over the world: 5 from Chile (3 from Universidad de Chile, 2 from Colo-Colo) and Spain (Barcelona, Valencia, Sociedad, Osasuna, Celta Vigo); 4 from Italy (2 from Juventus, 1 from Atalanta, Calgiari); 3 from Brazil (Internacional, Palmeiras, Santos); 2 from England (Wigan, Nottingham Forest); 1 from Sweden (Malmo), Wales (Cardiff), Netherlands (Twente), Switzerland (Basel). Chile will be a team worth watching as they should play with pace and high-intensity and with real attacking intent. Alexis Sanchez of Barcelona will be the star man in a front three, aided by attacking wing backs. Defense however could be a real weak point for Chile, especially given their lack of height. Nevertheless I expect Chile to impress and reach the knock-out stages.

The next Manchester United boss, Louis van Gaal, will lead a weak dutch team by their standards. Th squad has a lot of young players with limit experience and the most experienced are their star men. This squad is made up of: 10 from the Netherlands (5 from Feyenoord, 3 from Ajax, 2 from PSV); 4 from England (Manchester United, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Norwich); 3 from Germany (Bayern Munich, Schalke, Augsburg); 2 from Wales (Swansea), 2 from Turkey (Fenerbanche, Galatasaray); 1 from Italy (Milan) and Ukraine (Dynamo Kiev). Following a shocking Euro 2012 in which the dutch lost every game, the Netherlands had an excellent qualifying campaign - scoring 34 goals. The 2010 finalists will go into the World Cup with a 5-3-2 formation. The star men of course are Van Persie and Robben whilst Wesley Sneijder who was a key man in South Africa, is now perhaps past his best. A squad lacking experience, quality and strength and depth, their problem area is defense where there is the least experience and quality and I expect this to be exposed, resulting in another disappointing campaign with failure to reach the last 16.

Australia are in a period of transition and go into the tournament as the lowest ranked side and with a poorer squad than of recent times. The star man is the 34 year old forward Tim Cahill in a squad full of young players: 7 from Australia (2 from Melbourne Victory, Brisbane Roars, 1 from Adelaide United, Western Sydney Wanderers, Newcastle Jets); 3 from England (Crystal Palace, Preston, Swindon Town), Germany (Borrussia Dortmund, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Frankfurt); 2 from Switzerland (Luzern, Sion); Netherlands (Utrecht, Herals Almelo); 1 from Belgium (Club Brugge), USA (New York Red Bull), Austria (Wien); China (Sandong Luneng Taishan), South Korea (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors), Qatar (Al-Gharata). Australia remain somewhat of an unknown quantity so they could be a surprise, but I suspect against the likes of Spain, Chile and the Netherlands, they will be the whipping boys.

Spain - Netherlands, 13th June - 8pm: Repeat of 2010 Final
Spain - Chile, 18th June - 8pm: Two quality sides go head to head to battle for a place in the last 16.
Netherlands - Chile, 23rd June - 5pm: Potential decided for who goes through to the last 16.

Predictions:


[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Spain[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 2-0 Netherlands, 13[sup]th[/sup] June @ 8pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Chile[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 3-0 Australia, 13[sup]th[/sup] June @ 11pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Australia[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 0-2 Netherlands, 18[sup]th [/sup]June @ 5pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Spain[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 1-0 Chile, 18[sup]th[/sup] June @ 8pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Australia[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 0-3 Spain, 23[sup]rd[/sup] June @ 5pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Netherlands[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 0-1 Chile, 23[sup]rd[/sup] June @ 5pm[/size][/background][/font][/color]

[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Spain[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 9pts[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Chile[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 6pts[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Netherlands[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 3pts[/size][/background][/font][/color]
[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2]Australia[/size][/background][/font][/color][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=calibri][background=rgb(248,241,243)][size=2] 0pts [/size][/background][/font][/color]

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