Group B at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ will be heavily shaded with hues of South Africa 2010, the section kicking off with nothing less than a repeat of the title decider from four years ago. Reigning world champions Spain must thus tussle with 2010 runners-up the Netherland in a group in which Australia and Chile – the latter also having clashed with Vicente del Bosque’s men in the first round on African soil – will be hoping to upset the heavyweight European duo in the race for the Round of 16.
Spain open their title defence against two teams they defeated on the road to victory in South Africa, while their squad should feature many of the same key players that have enjoyed so much success since 2008. Providing a formidable obstacle to La Roja are a Dutch side that qualified for Brazil 2014 in impeccable style, spearheaded by 11-goal striker Robin Van Persie – without dispute a leading figure in Louis Van Gaal’s revamped Oranje.
Chile, for their part, finished third in South American Zone qualifying and go into the global showpiece endowed with a talented generation headed by Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez and Juventus’ Arturo Vidal. Embracing an attacking style of play, their current coach Jorge Sampaoli, who stepped in for Claudio Borghi in late 2012, has continued to build on the legacy left by Marcelo El Loco Bielsa.
Australia, for whom Brazil 2014 will be their fourth World Cup and third in a row, could prove a very hard-to-define quantity. A qualifying campaign packed with ups and downs, plus the arrival of new coach Ange Postecoglou means this is a genuine transitional phase for the Socceroos.
Players to watch
Xavi (ESP), Andres Iniesta (ESP), Xabi Alonso (ESP), Arjen Robben (NED), Robin Van Persie (NED), Rafael Van Der Vaart (NED), Arturo Vidal (CHI), Alexis Sanchez (CHI), Claudio Bravo (CHI), Tim Cahill (AUS), Lucas Neill (AUS).
The crunch match
Spain-Chile: This all-Spanish-speaking duel on the second matchday of Group B could end up shaping both sides’ tournament fortunes. The two Rojas’ meeting will be their fourth in just four years, following Spain’s 2-1 win at South Africa 2010 and two friendly games. And, given Chile grabbed a 2-2 draw in the pair’s most recent encounter, Sanchez and Co will feel confident of claiming a first ever victory over La Selección.
A look back
The Netherlands 0-1 (AET) Spain, 11 July 2010, Johannesburg
Fate has decreed that the two finalists from South Africa will meet again four years later in Brazil. Back then, only a solitary 116th-minute goal from Andres Iniesta could separate the two sides, handing La Roja their first ever World Cup win and denying the Dutch the Trophy in what was their third Final appearance.
Did you know?
Triumph at South Africa 2010 made Spain the eighth different nation to win the World Cup and the very first to do after beginning their bid with a defeat. Del Bosque’s charges were beaten 1-0 by Switzerland in their competition opener.
2 – In a group of familiar foes, there will also be two games that are ‘firsts’. Spain and Australia have never previously met at senior level, while the same can be said for Chile and the Netherlands.
Nadie dijo que fuera fácil.. Holanda, Chile y Australia en el grupo! #Brazil2014
— Gerard Piqué (@3gerardpique) 6 Dicembre 2013
Nobody said it would be easy… Netherlands, Chile and Australia in the group!
Have your say
Given they have been drawn in such an evenly matched group, could reigning champions Spain fall at the first hurdle, like Italy did at South Africa 2010?