Not only is Group B extremely difficult with three teams that have a solid chance at advancing, but if you finish second, a likely Round of 16 matchup against Brazil awaits. No one wants to face the home team in the first round of knockout stages, that’s for sure.
Without question, the Spaniards are the favorites in this group (-140 to win, -595 to advance at 5dimes sportsbook), having won three straight championships on the senior level (not including the 3-0 loss to Brazil in last year’s Confederations Cup). since winning Euro 2012, Spain has battled injuries across the board and hasn’t looked as dominant compared to year’s past. They haven’t scored more than two goals in eight straight matches and even lost a friendly to South Africa at the end of last year. While these aren’t huge things to worry about, it’s definitely something that can give the Netherlands and Chile some hope.
The biggest question for Spain’s roster is up front where they don’t have any hands down top options with David Villa and Fernando Torres regressing in the past few years. Barcelona’s Pedro could end up being their top scorer. Elsewhere, players like Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique are all still on the roster. The absence of Carles Puyol will hurt though, as he’s dealt with an injury for most of the year.
The next team up is the Netherlands (+290 to win, -155 to advance), who lost to Spain in the final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. again, this isn’t the same Dutch side that we saw Four years ago. Their top players are older and not playing as well and it’s shown in three straight friendlies without a win. Granted, if everyone plays as good as they can, this team can compete with anyone.
Netherlands’ main problems fall on the defensive end and it’s been like that for a while. Normal options like Gregory van der Wiel and John Heitinga weren’t even includedin the 30-man roster. Ron Vlaar might be the most experienced defender on the squad and he’s flanked by relatively unknown Daryl Janmaat and Bruno Martins Indi. Of course, the Oranje have some of the best attackers in the world with Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. They didn’t make it to the 2010 final because of luck.
Chile is listed as the third best team in the group (+410 to win, -105 to advance), but is a much tougher draw than meets the eye. Not only are the Chileans playing on their home continent, they have plenty of experience after making it to the knockout stages in the last World Cup. The Netherlands is a bigger favorite to advance (-155), but not by much (-110).
Chile is led up front by a couple Spanish LA Liga studs in Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas. Chile’s defense is their weakest spot, which could be a problem, but they are an attack-minded team with a solid midfield of Matias Fernandez, Jean BeausejOur and Arturo Vidal (if he recovers from a knee injury soon enough). Claudio Bravo is an experienced keeper in LA Liga as well and will be a great help against Spain and Netherlands. If Vidal can’t play, that would be a huge blow to the team.
The last country in this group is Australia and they are the least likely of all teams in the World Cup to advance out of group stages (+4750 to win, +1000 to advance). It’s going to be extremely difficult for the Australians to even get a point. They’ll count on Tim Cahill, Brett Holman and Mile Jedinak to make something happen.
One of the best group-stage Games will happen on the second day of the Tournament when Spain takes on Netherlands. Will Spain’s defense be up for the test against the loaded Dutch frontline? Can the Netherlands defense stay strong against the consistent Spaniards? If there is a winner in that Game, they’ll have the best shot to win the group and avoid Brazil.
Netherlands will need points in that first match because Chile is going to be a harder match for them than it is for Spain. However, it’s hard to see Netherlands not advancing if all of their top players are healthy. If not, Chile has a solid chance to steal a spot.