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World Cup 2014: Group B Preview

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David Ramos

Teams: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Liverpool Players: Pepe Reina

Group B brims with storylines, as Spain face the Netherlands in a rematch of the 2010 final and Chile in a rematch of a scintillating group game from last time around. There are contrasting brands of play to watch for, most notably between the Spanish and Dutch, and plenty of big names. This appears to be a true three team race for two spots with Spain, the Netherlands, and Chile all serious contenders to advance to the knockout stages, and it's going to be fascinating to see which two passionate footballing nations get through.

Do you think Spain are at serious risk in this group alongside the Netherlands and Chile or will the reigning champions progress easily?

It's been said that Spain's dominance over world football is on a downward slope, but I don't completely buy into that. They still ooze class and creativity, especially in the midfield, and there seems to be an endless supply of young Spanish talent that will eventually replace the old guard, led by Xavi. Concern regarding their lack of a world class striker with the injury issues of Diego Costa and the decline of Fernando Torres remains legitimate, but the service for whoever plays forward will remain excellent. Ultimately I think that they progress, but it might be a narrow escape because the Dutch also have an abundance of playmakers and Chile look like the type of team that can make a surprise run. (Dan)

Spain aren't an absolute lock to advance like I think Brazil are in Group A, but they are close. They may not be the team that dominates everyone else like they were at one point, but they are still the best team in the world on paper, even without a surefire striker threat. Spain have an absolute embarrassment of riches, especially in the midfield. Even if they can't score at will, they have the type of players that will take complete control of a game, and find a way to put 1 or 2 in eventually. I mean this is the team that somehow allowed Fernando Torres to win the Golden Boot at their last 2 major tournaments. They should make it out of this group relatively unscathed, and I think a semi-final run is still what we should expect out of this team. (blunatic)

I don't think Spain will win the kit n' caboodle this time, but I do expect them to get out of the group easy. They may draw with the Dutch if nothing like 2012 happens, but they should win their other 2 games easy enough. 4-6-0 formation into the bargain. But it's not as if Chile isn't a good side either. They might have a run for their money, but they'll be okay. (JAceKopite16)

On paper, Australia look completely overmatched. Will they lose all three of their games?

Yes, although we didn't see New Zealand getting anything from their 2010 group. (Dan)

I can't see how they won't, but this is the World Cup so who knows what will happen. If Euro 2012 Netherlands shows up they might be able to get their hands on a point, but a point is the absolute most I see them getting out of this group. (blunatic)

This is hardly the side that had the likes of Kewell and Viduka in it. And that's the reason Australia can't get much. They don't have any proven goal-scorers. I don't think anyone in the side is in England...I know it doesn't really matter, but over the years they've had at least some English-based players around, even going back to Craig Johnston in the 80s. I don't see them doing anything. (JAceKopite16)

Which player's performance will have the biggest influence on the outcome of this group?

I think that Alexis Sanchez has to be at his best for Chile to have a real shot of advancing. In 2010 he helped make a name for himself with some exemplary performances, but now he has to deal with the expectations that come with his role as a more well-known star. (Dan)

Robin van Persie had an up and down year for United, but he's still one of the best strikers in the world. This Dutch team doesn't impress me as much as the 2010 runners-up, so I think the burden of carrying this team will fall heavily on their captain. He will need to be at the top of his game for Netherlands to advance and have a shot at making a good run in the knockout stage. (blunatic)

Sanchez seems to be Chile's poster boy, and Chile seem to rely on him, like Dan said. RVP is Dutch captain, but perhaps what the bigger question is, with Van Gaal leaving, will that ignite a fire under the Dutch? Luis Aragones left Spain in '08, and part of the drive that Spain had to win the Euros is because they wanted to give him a proper send off. Could we see that here? (JAceKopite16)

Which Group B matchup excites you the most?

I have a feeling that Spain will be tested by a fearless Chile side, and so I'm eagerly awaiting that game. (Dan)

Once again, I'll go with the game I see deciding who takes second in the group: Netherlands v. Chile. I'll even say I think Chile will come out on top. (blunatic)

The Dutch vs Spain game is the obvious answer, and I have a Dutch friend who's fired up for that because of what happened in 2010. So he's helped with my hype over that game. (JAceKopite16)

Reveal your bias! Which team in this group are you pulling for?

I don't mind any of these teams. Spain are looked at negatively by some because of their massive success over the last decade, but I've come to respect their play. Meanwhile, Dirk Kuyt endears us to the Netherlands, Chile are the lovable dark horse of the group, and Australia are huge underdogs (although hate for Tim Cahill remains strong). (Dan)

If you hadn't noticed, I'm not big on the Netherlands. Sure I like Dirk Kuyt, but I still despise Robben for that penalty miss against Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League Final. That and I picked Netherlands to win Euro 2012 and they didn't even win a match. I really have no problem with Spain, but seeing the same teams win all the time gets old. So, I'm pulling for Chile. It would be nice to see a South American team that isn't Argentina or Brazil make some noise. (blunatic)

I'm actually torn between this group. Spain have a bunch of players I like (Iker, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, even Javi Martinez, but then they have all those Barca players...) The Dutch have Dirkus Maximus, who I have some serious man love for. I hate Tim Cahill, so not Australia. I hate Barca, so probably not Chile either with Sanchez. But the other 2, I'm not sure. (JAceKopite16)