This group stage presents an interesting potential matchup with Spain and Netherlands in the same group. These two teams played each other in the final of the 2010 World Cup with Spain emerging victorious winning with Andres Iniesta scoring the winning goal in the 116th minute. With Chile and Australia looming in this group stage can the two ex-finalists make it out of this group stage?
Manager: Vincent Del Bosque
|1||GK||Iker Casillas (c)||20 May 1981 (aged 33)||153||Real Madrid|
|2||DF||Raúl Albiol||4 September 1985 (aged 28)||46||Napoli|
|3||DF||Gerard Piqué||2 February 1987 (aged 27)||60||Barcelona|
|4||MF||Javi Martínez||2 September 1988 (aged 25)||16||Bayern Munich|
|5||DF||Juanfran||9 January 1985 (aged 29)||6||Atlético Madrid|
|6||MF||Andrés Iniesta||11 May 1984 (aged 30)||95||Barcelona|
|7||FW||David Villa||3 December 1981 (aged 32)||94||Atlético Madrid|
|8||MF||Xavi||25 January 1980 (aged 34)||131||Barcelona|
|9||FW||Fernando Torres||20 March 1984 (aged 30)||107||Chelsea|
|10||MF||Cesc Fàbregas||4 May 1987 (aged 27)||88||Barcelona|
|11||FW||Pedro||28 July 1987 (aged 26)||38||Barcelona|
|12||GK||David de Gea||7 November 1990 (aged 23)||1||Manchester United|
|13||MF||Juan Mata||28 April 1988 (aged 26)||32||Manchester United|
|14||MF||Xabi Alonso||25 November 1981 (aged 32)||109||Real Madrid|
|15||DF||Sergio Ramos||30 March 1986 (aged 28)||115||Real Madrid|
|16||MF||Sergio Busquets||16 July 1988 (aged 25)||64||Barcelona|
|17||MF||Koke||8 January 1992 (aged 22)||7||Atlético Madrid|
|18||DF||Jordi Alba||21 March 1989 (aged 25)||25||Barcelona|
|19||FW||Diego Costa||7 October 1988 (aged 25)||1||Atlético Madrid|
|20||MF||Santi Cazorla||13 December 1984 (aged 29)||62||Arsenal|
|21||MF||David Silva||8 January 1986 (aged 28)||79||Manchester City|
|22||DF||César Azpilicueta||28 August 1989 (aged 24)||6||Chelsea|
|23||GK||Pepe Reina||31 August 1982 (aged 31)||31||Napoli|
Spain are the defending champions of the 2010 World Cup, the 2012 UEFA Euro cup but lost the 2013 Confederations Cup in the finals to Brazil. While they still have the top players that made them champions twice out of those three years, they have gotten older and the tiki-taka possession style of play has been exploited over time(ask Pep Guardiola). Spain may change that style a bit with the addition of Diego Costa, a true striker into their squad as we have seen them go into striker-less formations recently. Their famed midfield will be a question as Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta are all 30 and over and may be the last time the trio will be together in a World Cup.
Key Player: Diego Costa
Known for being a controversial striker, Diego Costa may be getting himself into the most controversy yet. A born Brazilian, Diego Costa declared for Spain after having a Spanish citizenship for his many years playing in La Liga. Both countries lacking an elite striker, Diego Costa could have started for either country, but felt more at home playing for the Spanish. The outrage in Brazil was so big, the Brazilian Football Federation wants to strip Diego Costa of his citizenship. Nonetheless after scoring 35 total goals last season, Diego Costa will give Spain the striker they haven't had in years.
Player to Watch: Koke
Another Atletico Madrid club member is also a player to keep an eye on. While not as heralded as Diego Costa, Koke was nearly if not as important as Costa was to the Atletico Madrid squad. Manager Diego Simeone played him everywhere from right wing to central midfield to left wing and shown no drop-off in quality as he is extremely creative while having a unique ability to track back and make the key tackles. It speaks alot that he is the young Spaniard to be chosen in the squad over the likes of Isco, Ander Herrera, Borja Valero and Jesus Navas. Koke might be the spark Spain needs for the aging midfield.
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
Predicted Group Finish: 3rdNumber/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club
Chile is a team that has quite a few household names in Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal and to the average fan, they also have some players you have never heard of, Chile can be a team that can be a team that has potential to make it out of a group stage but also a possibility to finish fourth. Chile has a team full of fast and skillful athletes but lack size as their tallest player on defense is Miiko Albornoz at 5'11. Chile will of course have to depend on their superstars but their lesser known players as well to get out of the group stage.
Key Player: Arturo Vidal
Just as the video says, Arturo Vidal is a complete midfielder. In 46 total matches for club team Juventus, Vidal scored 18 goals and 6 assists while being a key factor on defense. Vidal also is an engine that rarely tires during 90 minutes and will might as well play every match for Chile as they will need him the most. Alexis Sanchez is also a key player to watch as Chile will look for him as their main attacking outlet.
Player to Watch: Eduardo Vargas
A few years ago, Eduardo Vargas was dubbed the next Alexis Sanchez, a player packed with so much potential Napoli bought him from Club Universidad de Chile for over 18 million dollars. In Napoli, he struggled to get playing time on the field and was eventually loaned out to Brazilian club Gremio and now Spanish club Valencia. Vargas shown sparks in Valencia of the player from South America that was highly regarded, and can continue to redeem his career in the World Cup.
Manager: Ange Postecoglou
Predicted Group Finish: 4th
|1||GK||Mathew Ryan||8 April 1992 (aged 22)||7||Club Brugge|
|2||DF||Ivan Franjić||10 September 1987 (aged 26)||9||Brisbane Roar|
|3||DF||Jason Davidson||29 June 1991 (aged 22)||7||Heracles Almelo|
|4||FW||Tim Cahill||6 December 1979 (aged 34)||69||New York Red Bulls|
|5||MF||Mark Milligan||4 August 1985 (aged 28)||29||Melbourne Victory|
|6||DF||Matthew Špiranović||27 June 1988 (aged 25)||18||Western Sydney Wanderers|
|7||FW||Mathew Leckie||4 February 1991 (aged 23)||8||FSV Frankfurt|
|8||DF||Bailey Wright||28 July 1992 (aged 21)||0||Preston North End|
|9||FW||Adam Taggart||2 June 1993 (aged 21)||5||Newcastle Jets|
|10||MF||Ben Halloran||14 June 1992 (aged 21)||2||Fortuna Düsseldorf|
|11||MF||Tommy Oar||10 December 1991 (aged 22)||15||Utrecht|
|12||GK||Mitchell Langerak||22 August 1988 (aged 25)||3||Borussia Dortmund|
|13||MF||Oliver Bozanić||8 January 1989 (aged 25)||3||Luzern|
|14||MF||James Troisi||3 July 1988 (aged 25)||11||Melbourne Victory|
|15||MF||Mile Jedinak (c)||3 August 1984 (aged 29)||44||Crystal Palace|
|16||MF||James Holland||15 May 1989 (aged 25)||14||Austria Wien|
|17||MF||Matt McKay||11 January 1983 (aged 31)||47||Brisbane Roar|
|18||GK||Eugene Galeković||12 June 1981 (aged 33)||8||Adelaide United|
|19||DF||Ryan McGowan||15 August 1989 (aged 24)||9||Shandong Luneng Taishan|
|20||MF||Dario Vidošić||8 April 1987 (aged 27)||23||Sion|
|21||MF||Massimo Luongo||25 September 1992 (aged 21)||1||Swindon Town|
|22||DF||Alex Wilkinson||13 August 1984 (aged 29)||3||Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors|
|23||MF||Mark Bresciano||11 February 1980 (aged 34)||74||Al-Gharafa|
Australia finished third in the group stage in the last World Cup in 2010. This is their third consecutive World Cup and will be a tough group for them as Spain, Chile and Netherlands are three tough teams that have the quality to get to the elimination stages themselves. This Australian team is full of unproven talent but still boast Australian heroes Tim Cahill and Mile Jedniak. Can Australia make it out of this challenging group stage?
Key Player: Tim Cahill
MLS fans have gotten quickly acquainted with who Tim Cahill is whom can very well go down as a legend for English club Everton. Tim Cahill at 34 years old most certainly will be playing in his last World Cup and it is a question to see if he can still play against the nation's top soccer athletes. Tim Cahill is a midfielder that is known to make late runs and score goals can he still do it and pull Australia out of this group stage?
Player to Watch: Matthew Ryan
He is the first choice goalkeeper for Belgian club Club de Brugge and his quickly become one of the top goalkeepers for the Jupiler Pro League. The 22 year old will get a chance to defend Australia's back line as last Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer retired from international play. With the strength of attack in his group stage, Matt Ryan will definitely be put to the test and will need to be on his best if Australia is to survive.
Manager: Louis Van Gaal
Predicted Group Finish: 2md
|1||GK||Jasper Cillessen||22 April 1989 (aged 25)||8||Ajax|
|2||DF||Ron Vlaar||16 February 1985 (aged 29)||24||Aston Villa|
|3||DF||Stefan de Vrij||5 February 1992 (aged 22)||12||Feyenoord|
|4||DF||Bruno Martins Indi||8 February 1992 (aged 22)||16||Feyenoord|
|5||DF||Daley Blind||9 March 1990 (aged 24)||12||Ajax|
|6||MF||Jonathan de Guzmán||13 September 1987 (aged 26)||10||Swansea City|
|7||DF||Daryl Janmaat||22 July 1989 (aged 24)||16||Feyenoord|
|8||MF||Nigel de Jong||13 November 1984 (aged 29)||71||Milan|
|9||FW||Robin van Persie (c)||6 August 1983 (aged 30)||85||Manchester United|
|10||MF||Wesley Sneijder||9 June 1984 (aged 30)||99||Galatasaray|
|11||MF||Arjen Robben||23 January 1984 (aged 30)||75||Bayern Munich|
|12||DF||Paul Verhaegh||1 September 1983 (aged 30)||2||Augsburg|
|13||DF||Joël Veltman||15 January 1992 (aged 22)||2||Ajax|
|14||DF||Terence Kongolo||14 February 1994 (aged 20)||1||Feyenoord|
|15||FW||Dirk Kuyt||22 July 1980 (aged 33)||98||Fenerbahçe|
|16||MF||Jordy Clasie||27 June 1991 (aged 22)||8||Feyenoord|
|17||FW||Jeremain Lens||24 November 1987 (aged 26)||22||Dynamo Kyiv|
|18||MF||Leroy Fer||5 January 1990||6||Norwich City|
|19||FW||Klaas-Jan Huntelaar||12 August 1983 (aged 30)||62||Schalke 04|
|20||MF||Georginio Wijnaldum||11 November 1990 (aged 23)||5||PSV|
|21||MF||Memphis Depay||13 February 1994 (aged 20)||6||PSV|
|22||GK||Michel Vorm||3 October 1983 (aged 30)||14||Swansea City|
|23||GK||Tim Krul||3 April 1988 (aged 26)||5||Newcastle United|
Netherlands, the 2010 South Africa World Cup runner-ups are back with a different manager and a squad filled with young players and aging superstars. Netherlands were a huge disappointment in the 2012 UEFA Euro Cup without scoring a single point in the group stage. How does a team with Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder fail to even tie a single game? While they have big names, the question is their defense which features a completely different cast since the 2010 World Cup and is very young and inexperienced. What new Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal needs to instill is selflessness with their superstars. In the Euro Cup their players (*cough* Arjen Robben) were playing too selfish and focused more on putting a highlight reel than playing a team game. If they can play as a team again, they can get out of this group stage and hopefully play as well as they did in 2010.
Key Player: Robin Van Persie
Robin Van Persie scored 30 goals during his first season at Manchester United in the 2012/2013 season. However, his second season was marred by injuries and manager issues with David Moyes. Now that his new manager is his National team manager the Flying Dutchman should be motivated to recapture his 2012-2013 form. The goal right now for Netherlands' captain and all-time top goalscorer should be the World Cup and how to impress his new manager to lead his Netherlands back to glory.
Player to Watch: Memphis Depay
This will be the 20 year old's first World Cup and deservedly so after a tremendous season for the youngster where he registered 14 goals and 10 assists in 46 matches. Depay is a inverted left winger in the mold of Cristiano Ronaldo and Marco Reus who can cut inside and let loose a powerful long shot with his right foot. Memphis Depay has a chance to see alot of playing time during this World Cup if the older regime of Dirk Kuyt, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder can't play 90 minutes.
Follow Shaysports on Twitter!