LAST week, I gave my take on group A and expected Brazil to ‘Samba’ their way out of the group easily. This week, predicting the chances of teams in Group B is not going to be an easy task.
All of the sides in this group are strong and have what it takes to shine in the world stage. This group will also see a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final!
Here is my take on teams participating in group B.
Will they retain their title next year? They’re one of the favourites for the title but it won’t be plain sailing for La Furia Roja! For the last six years, Spain have been dominant in the international arena after winning Euro 2008 and 2012 and World Cup 2010. Led by experienced gaffer Vicente Del Bosque, most of the players who played in the 2010 World Cup will be part of the 2014 squad. The players have the experience but teams are beginning to unlock their ‘tiki-taka’ tactics - Brazil certainly showed their frailties during the Confederations Cup final this year! In the last tournament, Iker Casillas led his side to World Cup victory but this time, he might not even be in the squad due to lack of playing time with his club side Real Madrid. Goalkeepers like David De Gea, Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina are up to the task if he misses the cut. Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Francesc Fabregas will be the main players for Spain this time around and expect youngsters like Isco, Koke and Alberto Moreno to impress this tournament.
Runners-up of the last tournament, Netherlands will fret the prospect of having to face teams like Chile and Spain. Those days, they prime themselves as ambassadors of ‘Total Football” but Louis Van Gaal has instilled tactical discipline into the side. Will they be able to better their performance in 2010? - They can if they put their mind and soul into it. 2010, they defied the odds to reach the final and players like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie were impressive during the tournament. This time around, they will be the experienced lads ones supplemented by the young-uns like Kevin Strootman, Luciano Narsingh, Memphis Depay and Adam Maher. van Gaal is a strict tactician and will surely want his boys to do well in this group.
It will be interesting to see how the Chileans perform this time. Known for their industrious midfielders and silky wingers, Chile might spring a surprise in this group. Coached by Jorge Sampaoli, Chile fared well in the group stages of the 2010 World Cup but lost to Brazil in the second round. Spain was also in that group and I’m sure the Chileans are no strangers to the Spaniards. Some of their players ply their trade in La Liga and these players are key for the La Roja. Alexis Sanchez will be the main man for Chile and industrious midfielders like Gary Medel, Arturo Vidal and Jorge Valdivia will provide the ammunition for him. During the qualification period, Chile finished third behind Argentina and Colombia and many are expecting to lose out against Spain and Netherlands but I wouldn’t bet against this side - They can surprise anyone on their day!
I’m predicting them to be the wooden spooners of the group. Having just replaced Holger Osieck with Ange Postecoglou, the Australian is full of veterans and this will severely dent their chances of coming out from this group. No doubt, these players are world class but when it comes to world stage and especially in this group, you need players in their peak and youngsters who can change the game. The Socceroos have none of them right now except for Tim Cahill who is also at the wrong side of 30. Unless Postecoglou decides to give exposure to the youngsters, then they can only hope to do well in the next World Cup. Based on his last friendly selection, he selected lots of youngsters and also players who are reaching their peak. The likes Tom Rogic, Tommy Oar, Matthew Leckie and Robbie Kruse will have valuable experience playing against these sides.
Spain, Chile and Netherlands will be the three times vying out for the two spots. The first game of the group - Spain vs Netherlands will set the tone for this group and coaches like Jorge Sampaoli, Vicente Del Bosque and Louis van Gaal will be under pressure to bring their countries out of the group. Australia’s chances of qualifying is all but over but expect them to go guns blazing in the next tournament which will be held in Russia.