Group B is the second contest of all the groups in the World Cup and it is contested by 4 nations that hope to bring their countries to glory- Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia.
Bear in mind that Arturo Vidal of Chile is going through an injury phase. The world hopes that the player who currently holds the title of “best box-to-box midfielder” can play for Chile.
Spain is the defending champion of the FIFA World Cup and will be looking to win their 4th straight major competition. Their distinctive tiki-taka style has failed on the big stages recently, and stars from their golden generation are aging past their prime. Will the new generation be able to replace the current ones? Stars from the past such as Iniesta and Sergio Ramos are as good as they have ever been, and they are helped by the ageing Xavi who has unmatched anticipation and passing knowledge. Up and coming fullbacks Jordi Alba and Dani Carvajal are set to be superstars in the future, and Pedro is the only traditional winger that is in the class of player that starts in the Spanish 11. In the Group, they will look to beat World Cup Final opponent Netherlands once again, along with group opponent Chile who have matured greatly over the years.
Netherlands were so close to World Cup glory in 2010 but just missed out in the last 5 minutes. They entered Euro 2012 as one of the favourites but lost all of their games, only scoring 2 goals in the process. Netherlands will be looking to overcome past heartbreaks while coping with a poor defence under new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal. Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben were both in the Top 15 players in the Ballon d’Or 2013, and Wesley Sneijder just missed out on the golden boot in the last World Cup. On their day, these three form an attack that can break any defence, regardless of whether they line up in Van Gaal’s 4-3-3 or the recent 5-3-2.
Chile is an aggressive, driving side, and are one of the underrated prospects in the tournament. Not only do they have Alexis Sanchez in their forward ranks, they also have Arturo Vidal, who is regarded by many as the best box-to-box midfielder in the world. Juventus wingback/central midfielder Mauricio Isla is a great squad player as well, and you can expect Sampaoli’s men to win great plaudits whether they advance from this death group or not. In their home continent, it is very possible that Chile could win the group and go on to the quarter finals. We will see in the tournament.
Australia is regarded by many as the worst side in the tournament, and although they have some bright players, they have been drawn into a group where they are the least likely side in the entire tournament to progress. Don’t misjudge the Australians though. They will display with heart and hope that underrated players such as Mile Jedinak and Tim Cahill can lead Australia to a good display.
Strengths by Position:
Iker Casillas Captained Spain to World Cup glory in 2010 and will hope to do so the same again. He is not the same player he was back then, but he is still one of the best shot stoppers in the world. Tim Krul, although he may not start for Netherlands, is one of the best in the Premier League, and on his day he can deny strong opposition by himself. He has done this against Spurs for Newcastle in an eye-catching display.
1. Iker Casillas, Spain
2. Tim Krul, Netherlands
Spanish Fullback duo Jordi Alba and Cesar Azpilicueta are fantastic players. Although Azpilicueta may not start due to the attacking threat of Dani Carvajal, both will provide a good option depending on the opposition. Daryl Janmaat has displaced Gregory Van der Wiel in the XI and you can expect him to make some noise. Pay attention to Daley Blind, a promising youth player from Ajax, who doubles as a central midfielder. A good display from the young left-back may open the door to a move to Manchester United and new manager, Louis van Gaal.
1. Jordi Alba, Spain
2. Cesar Azpilicueta/Daniel Carvajal, Spain
3. Daley Blind, Netherlands
4. Daryl Janmaat, Netherlands
Spain has 2 of the best Centre Backs in the world, and they will both be up to play at the World Cup. Sergio Ramos has extreme flair for a centre back, and Pique seems to make lots of mistakes, although his intercepting is good. Stefan De Vrij is a promising Dutch centre back, and expect him to play with other Dutch prospect Bruno Martins Indi and solid Aston Villa back Ron Vlaar in Van Gaal’s 5-3-2.
1. Sergio Ramos, Spain
2. Gerrard Pique, Spain
3. Ron Vlaar, Netherlands
4. Stefan de Vrij, Netherlands
5. Bruno Martins Indi, Netherlands
Spain has the 3 best Anchors in the world, in Javi Martinez, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets. Expect the latter to start because of the suited tiki-taka system. Nigel de Jong plies his trade with AC Milan, and he will be there as a key player for the Dutch, as Kevin Strootman will not be around due to injury. Gary Medel is a great player for Chile, and he will be holding the midfield so Isla and Vidal can attack. Mile Jedinak is the best Australian player without Robbie Kruse and he is one of the most underrated players in the world.
1. Sergio Busquets, Spain
2. Nigel de Jong, Netherlands
3. Mile Jedinak, Australia
4. Gary Medel, Chile
The Box-to-Box position is loaded with talent. Jordy Clasie is a great deputy for Strootman, and has been linked with United more than once. Cesc Fabregas and Xavi will form a double so Iniesta can cut in from the wing. For national team, Xavi is still the most important player for Spain. The best of all is Arturo Vidal, arguably the best in the world, and Mauricio Isla deserves a shout.
1. Arturo Vidal, Chile
2. Xavi, Spain
3. Cesc Fabregas, Spain
4. Jordy Clasie, Netherlands
5. Mauricio Isla, Chile
The “10” or the Attacking Midfield is the main outlet of play making for forwards. There is only one true attacking midfielder/10 in the Group is Wesley Sneijder, who will be hoping to score more goals than his previous World Cup tally of 5.
Spain will deploy an Attacking Midfielder out on the wings, and Andres Iniesta is one of the best players in the world. Pedro is a fantastic direct winger on the other flank, and Arjen Robben will play as a second striker/winger for Netherlands after an absolutely world class 2013.
1. Arjen Robben, Netherlands
2. Andres Iniesta, Spain
3. Pedro, Spain
Although Alexis Sanchez and Tim Cahill deserve many plaudits for their performances, the real debate here comes between 2 of the best strikers in the world; Robin van Persie and Diego Costa. Costa has been the world’s 2nd best No. 9 after Suarez and Ibrahimovic, but Robin van Persie’s injuries this year have played a huge role in him not being included. When fit, van Persie has been as prolific as Costa, and for national team he is the hero and top scorer ever. Costa only has 1 cap and is racing to be fit for the World Cup, so van Persie gets the nod here.
1. Robin van Persie, Netherlands
2. Diego Costa, Spain
3. Alexis Sanchez, Chile
4. Tim Cahill, Australia
Matchups and Predictions:
Some of the matchups in Group B will light up the Group Stages. Let’s take a look at each fixture.
Spain vs Netherlands:
After a deadlock that lasted 116 minutes in the 2010 final, many would argue that Spain and Netherlands are playing on equal ground. However, Netherlands have struggled to be in the same class as Spain since then. If Netherlands can beat Spain, they will likely go on to win the Group. If Spain wins, they can definitely move on to the next round with ease.
Netherlands Attack and Wing: Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin vam Persie face the unenviable task of beating Sergio Ramos and Gerrard Pique in a tactical battle. Although they do win here, not by much, and Spain win everywhere else on the field.
Prediction: Spain 0-0 Netherlands; MOTM Sergio Ramos
Although Spain will dominate the match through and through, expect the Dutch experience to rise above, and for Spain not to be in full drive yet.
Chile vs Australia:
Chile are the dark horses in the Group, and perhaps the tournament, and they must win this match to stay in the game, as Netherlands and Spain will tactically destroy the Australians. Australia will hope to withstand the pressure and spoil the Group very early.
Chile Defensive Midfield: Gary Medel and Tim Cahill is a great matchup, and you can expect this one to rile up the Australians a bit. That is, of course, if Jedinak can slip through Vidal and Isla once or twice in the other tactical battle.
Chile Central Mid: Mauricio Isla will probably be a bit more withdrawn than Vidal. Expect these two to run circle around the Australians and to engine through their defence, except for Mile Jedinak. Jedinak can stop Isla, but he will have to put in the performance of his life to stop Vidal.
Predictiction: Chile 2-0 Australia, Goals; Vargas, Sanchez; MOTM Sanchez
Chile will outplay Australia and virtually end their chances of getting any points in the group.
Spain vs Chile:
Likely to both take points from their first games, Chile and Spain will play a game of aggression. Chile will advance from the Group if they pull off the surprise win, AND they have a 70% chance of sending Spain packing. Spain will look to almost certain their chances of advancing to the next round, and a draw would do this unless they want to avoid playing Brazil.
Spain Defence: Sergio Ramos, Gerrard Pique and Sergio Busquets should be able to stop Alexis Sanchez, but a rushing Vidal and a quick Isla will make it hard. This will be one of the most even tactical battles on the field.
Arturo Vidal and Mauricio Isla vs Cesc Fabregas and Xavi: It just turns out that Chile and Spain use similar versions of the 4-3-3, and although they play vastly different styles, this system still involves two central midfielders. Vidal is much better at the role than Cesc Fabregas, but Xavi makes up for it with his ticking sound of passing. Spain win it here, and Mauricio Isla won’t keep up.
Prediction: Spain 2-1 Chile; Diego Costa (2), Vidal; MOTM Diego Costa
A sensational performance from the lowly capped Diego Costa will spark Spain to beat a tricky Chile side. Vidal will score a consolation goal.
Netherlands vs Australia:
A loss from Netherlands would almost certainly send Chile and Spain to the next round, whereas a loss from Australia would knock them out of the competition.
Netherlands win across the pitch against Australia, and Australia won’t win a tactical battle in the entire match, unless Mile Jedinak and Tim Cahill can perform a world class game. Australia will score their only goal of the tournament.
Prediction: Netherlands 3-1 Australia; Goals, van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, T. Cahill; MOTM van Persie
Australia vs Spain:
Australia are good as eliminated at this point, unless they can grab a draw, so they are trying to spoil the day for Spain. Right now, according to my predictions, Spain have 4 points, Chile have 3 points, and Netherlands have 4 points. A win for Australia and a draw for Chile would see Netherlands and Chile advancing to the next round. Spain are fighting against this.
Spain win across the entire pitch, and tactically speaking this match will be a complete rout.
Prediction: Spain 3-0 Australia; Goals, Iniesta, Fabregas, Silva, MOTM Iniesta
Netherlands vs Chile:
The best match of the group will once again be in the last round of group fixtures. Both teams play aggressive styles, and counter each other perfectly. With 2 total football sides, expect the true tactics of Van Gaal to come through in this match. Chile will have to win to move to the next round, and the Netherlands need a draw to advance. Let’s look at the tactical battles.
Midfield: Nigel de Jong, Wesley Sneijder and Jordy Clasie will be out to break Arturo Vidal, Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel. In the closest battle on the field, both sides will have an engine to move through. The Dutch anchor will win, and Clasie would beat Isla. Vidal could beat any of the 3 Dutch midfielders. Expect this tactical battle to decide the match.
The other tactical battles are not much of a fight: Chile’s Attack should beat the Dutch defence, whereas Robben and van Persie would have to do something wrong not to beat the Chilean defence. Chile lose on the right wing, and Netherlands barely lose on the left wing. Netherlands win at goalkeeper.
Expect an absolute thriller and both teams fighting for the win.
Prediction: Netherlands 2-2 Chile; Goals, van Persie, Sneijder, Sanchez, Isla; MOTM van Persie
Chile will not get the goal they need because of van Persie’s exploits. Expect an absolute thriller that will leave you hanging, especially if you are a Chile or Netherlands fan.
Final Prediction Table:
Spain, 7 pts, +4 GD
Netherlands, 5 pts, +2 GD
Chile, 4 pts, +1 GD
Australia, 0 pts, -7 GD
Spain will take 1st and Netherlands will have to play Brazil in the Round of 16 after finishing 2nd.
Match Schedule for Group B (Eastern Time):
Spain vs Netherlands, June 13, 3pm
Chile vs Australia, June 13, 6pm
Netherlands vs Australia, June 18, 12pm
Spain vs Chile, June 18, 3pm
Australia vs Spain, June 23, 12pm
Netherlands vs Chile, June 23, 12pm
Will Spain and Netherlands advance? The beauty of the World Cup is that we don’t know. The best way to find out is to watch the World Cup, so be sure to tune in for the fun that will captivate more of the world than any other event.