Following our preview for Group A which we released on Tuesday, here is Fred Stanley Sport‘s look at Group B at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. We’ll look at all four teams in the group, plus list all the fixture details you’ll need as you settle in to watch the world’s biggest carnival of football.
Best Finish – Winners (2010)
Odds – 13/2
It’s been well documented that a European side has never won the World Cup in South America, but if that trend is to be broken this summer then it will likely be the defending champions Spain who will break the mould. The 2010 winners still posses an embarrassment of riches in comparison to most nations, however with players such as Xavi, Fernando Torres and Ilker Casillas all past their best the other country’s competing in Brazil will fancy their chances of knocking Spain off their perch. Athletico Madrid forward Diego Costa is an injury doubt which could lead manager Vincent Del Bosque to use the same “false nine” formation that was so successful at Euro 2012. Should he do so the midfielders will be expected to pick up the goalscoring slack, with diminutive Manchester City playmaker David Silva likely to be a crucial part of the unit. Silva has so far enjoyed a fantastic 2014 and if he can reproduce his club form in Brazil the Spanish will almost certainly be there or there about’s come July.
Best Finish – Runners Up (1974, 1978, 2010)
Odds – 33/1
Ironically, Group B will pit Spain against the team they defeated in the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa, the Netherlands. Unfortunately for the Dutch they may have fallen even farther than their opponents four years ago, and it would be a shock indeed if they were to make it back to the final. They still possess a number of talented players, not least Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie, but Van Persie’s injury struggles last season and the aging core including Nigel De Jong and Arjen Robben will make it extremely difficult for Louis Van Gaal’s men to succeed in the searing South American heat. Robben can still give any full back in world football a torrid time and if Van Persie somehow returns to his 2012 performance level then the Dutch will remain a difficult encounter for anyone in the tournament’s knock out stages.
Best Finish – Third Place (1962)
Odds – 50/1
The presence of Chile in Group B has the potential to threaten both Spain and the Netherlands passage to the last 16, not least because of their highly talented forward Alexis Sanchez. Barcelona man Sanchez has big game pedigree and he’s surrounded by a number of stars who ply their trade in Europe’s most competitive leagues, including Gary Medel (Cardiff City) and Arturo Vidal (Juventus). The Chileans victory over England at Wembley last Autumn sent a warning to their Group B opponents, who will have to be at their best to avoid an upset against the South Americans, who are sure to embrace playing their matches in a climate similar to their own.
Best Finish – Last 16 (2006)
Odds – 1500/1
The ‘Socceroos’ are set to compete in their third consecutive World Cup, marking their emergence on the world stage having previously only appeared in the 1974 edition of the tournament. However Australia’s ‘golden generation’ featuring Premier League stars such as Mark Schwarzer, Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka have all now retired from international football and their remaining talent isn’t getting any younger either. Tim Cahill and captain Lucas Neill remain but the remainder of the squad is inexperienced and lacks the European pedigree of its predecessors. Being drawn in a difficult group won’t help the Australians either, but their grit and determination could still be enough to cause an upset or two in Brazil.
Spain v Netherlands -13th June, Salvador (20.00 GMT)
Chile v Australia – 13th June, Cuiaba (22.00 GMT)
Australia v Netherlands – 18th June, Porto Alegre (17.00 GMT)
Spain v Chile – 18th June, Rio De Janeiro (20.00 GMT)
Australia v Spain – 23rd June, Curitiba (17.00 GMT)
Netherlands v Chile – 23rd June, Sao Paulo (17.00 GMT)
Who do you think will qualify from Group B? Could Spain fall at the first hurdle? Have your say in the comments or by tweeting @fredjstanley