Group B – Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia
A strong contender for 2014’s ‘group of death’, reigning champions Spain will go into the tournament as favourites to top Group B. What’s most striking about their squad isn’t the players that have been selected, but the one’s coach Vicente Del Bosque has opted to leave out. There are no places for Manchester City’s title winners Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas, Juventus striker Fernando Llorente, or Real Madrid’s wonderkid Isco. Del Bosque has taken a risk on striker Diego Costa, with the Athletico Madrid striker struggling with a hamstring injury which prevented him from finishing the title decider against Barcelona and the Champions League final against Real Madrid. Boasting the best midfield in the tournament, their possession football will tire opposition sides out in the Brazilian heat. They won’t be far from making it four consecutive major tournament victories.
Spain’s first game will be a repeat of 2010’s final, as they face incoming Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands. The Dutch have been dealt a blow in the build up to the tournament with former Tottenham favourite Rafael Van Der Vaart ruled out with a calf injury. A lot of pressure will be on the experienced attacking trio of Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder to fire their side into the knockout stages. However a suspect defence, marshalled by Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar, may prove to be their Achilles’ heel. Netherlands have yet to triumph at a World Cup finals, and with Van Gaal possibly having one eye on his next job, don’t expect 2014 to be any different.
Considered as dark horses in some parts, Chile will be hoping their familiarity of the South American climate will be an advantage over their opponents. England fans will remember the Chilean’s impressive 2-0 victory at Wembley last November in which they played the home side off the park. Spearheaded by Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez, many of these players will be able to draw on Champions League experience against the more fancied European sides. Sanchez is coming off the back of his most successful season at the Nou Camp, where he is starting to fulfil his promise as a world class player, and he will be supported by the highly rated Juventus duo Arturo Vidal and Mauricio Isla. High tempo, attacking football coupled with their underdog status could see them win the hearts of the nation once England have inevitably been knocked out on penalties.
The lowest ranked side in Brazil, Australia must have shuddered upon hearing the draw for 2014. The Socceroos have named a youthful squad with a blend of experience, designed to be better equipped come four years time. Crystal Palace captain Miles Jedinak and former Everton hero Tim Cahill will be tasked with guiding the young players in what is sure to be a gruelling campaign. Swindon Town’s Massimo Luongo will cap a remarkable rise from League One to the World Cup finals after impressing in the warm up matches. Hopefully Australia will be able to compete and pick up some points along the way, but only a brave man would tip them to qualify.
Final Standings Prediction
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