Group B is supposed to be the 5th hardest group, though removing the lowest ranked country in the tournament, Australia, leaving the reigning champions Spain with Holland and Chile to make it a tough group.
Spain. Reigning champions and undefeated in 4 major tournaments. One of the favourites to win the tournament despite an ageing squad, but also one that is much more experienced. Their “tika-taka” style of football doesn’t win them many friends but it is effective.
Star player. Andres Iniesta of Barcelona. The 30 year-old is the key to holding Spain’s footballing style together, without being the obvious stand out player. Unexpected hero? Cesar Azipilicueta. The 24 year-old Chelsea full-back is still inexperienced on the national stage, but given the opportunity could impress.
Chile. Ranked 14th in FIFA’s rankings. Many people’s dark horse. Been to the finals on 8 out of the 22 times the tournament has been held. Chile’s best finish was third in 1962. Good warm-up with a 4-0 win over Costa Rica, but a 1-0 defeat to Germany. Can’t afford to slip up against Australia, and a need a win over Spain or Holland to progress.
Star player. Alexis Sanchez. The 25 year-old Barcelona striker is one of the leading all time goal-scorers for Chile. His goals will be crucial, will he be well enough supplied though? Unexpected hero? Felipe Gutierrez. The 23 year-old FC Twente midfielder, could hold some influence in the middle of the park, of played.
Holland. Finalist in the last world cup when they lost to Group B rivals Spain 1-0 in a bad tempered match. Struggle too often with unrest with the camp, and this appears to be no different. Chile will be the rivals for 2nd spot, and Dutch could well be going home at the end of the group stages.
Star player. Robben Van Persie. The Dutch will be desperate for him to be fully match fit. His goals could be good enough for Holland to progress, but he’ll be a marked man. Unexpected hero? Bruno Martins Indi. Has already had a falling out with Robben on the training pitch. Could he turn that aggression to Holland’s benefit in a game.
Australia. Expected to by the whipping boys of the group. 4th appearance in the tournament with 2006 being the only time they’ve progressed pass the group stage. Tough group for the Socceroos to be in, but any point they can win will upset the group.
Star player. Tim Cahill. The 34 year-old is still going strong, plying his trade in the USA with the New York Red Bulls. Will he be able to terrorise the defences of Spain, Holland and Chile? Unexpected hero? Jason Davidson. Inexperienced at international level, this 22 year-old defender plying his trade in Holland might get the chance to shine.
Prediction. 1st Spain, 2nd Chile, 3rd Holland and 4th Australia.
Fixtures for Group B (all times BST)
|Thursday 13th June||Spain v Netherlands||20:00||BBC 1 / BBC 1 HD||Arena Fonte Nova|
|Thursday 13th June||Chile v Australia||23:00||ITV / ITV HD||Arena Pantanal|
|Wednesday 18th June||Australia v Netherlands||17:00||ITV / ITV HD||Estadio Beira-Rio|
|Wednesday 18th June||Spain v Chile||20:00||BBC 1 / BBC 1 HD||Maracanã|
|Monday 23rd June||Australia v Spain||17:00||ITV / ITV HD||Arena da Baixada|
|Monday 23rd June||Netherlands v Chile||17:00||ITV4 / ITV4 HD||Arena Corinthians|