Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2014 World Cup: Group B

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
Number/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club
1GKIker Casillas (c)20 May 1981 (aged 33)153Spain Real Madrid
2DFRaúl Albiol4 September 1985 (aged 28)46Italy Napoli
3DFGerard Piqué2 February 1987 (aged 27)60Spain Barcelona
4MFJavi Martínez2 September 1988 (aged 25)16Germany Bayern Munich
5DFJuanfran9 January 1985 (aged 29)6Spain Atlético Madrid
6MFAndrés Iniesta11 May 1984 (aged 30)95Spain Barcelona
7FWDavid Villa3 December 1981 (aged 32)94Spain Atlético Madrid
8MFXavi25 January 1980 (aged 34)131Spain Barcelona
9FWFernando Torres20 March 1984 (aged 30)107England Chelsea
10MFCesc Fàbregas4 May 1987 (aged 27)88Spain Barcelona
11FWPedro28 July 1987 (aged 26)38Spain Barcelona
12GKDavid de Gea7 November 1990 (aged 23)1England Manchester United
13MFJuan Mata28 April 1988 (aged 26)32England Manchester United
14MFXabi Alonso25 November 1981 (aged 32)109Spain Real Madrid
15DFSergio Ramos30 March 1986 (aged 28)115Spain Real Madrid
16MFSergio Busquets16 July 1988 (aged 25)64Spain Barcelona
17MFKoke8 January 1992 (aged 22)7Spain Atlético Madrid
18DFJordi Alba21 March 1989 (aged 25)25Spain Barcelona
19FWDiego Costa7 October 1988 (aged 25)1Spain Atlético Madrid
20MFSanti Cazorla13 December 1984 (aged 29)62England Arsenal
21MFDavid Silva8 January 1986 (aged 28)79England Manchester City
22DFCésar Azpilicueta28 August 1989 (aged 24)6England Chelsea
23GKPepe Reina31 August 1982 (aged 31)31Italy 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
Predicted Group Finish: 3rdNumber/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club

1GKClaudio Bravo (c)13 April 1983 (aged 31)79Spain Real Sociedad
2DFEugenio Mena18 July 1988 (aged 25)25Brazil Santos
3DFMiiko Albornoz3 November 1990 (aged 23)2Sweden Malmö FF
4MFMauricio Isla12 June 1988 (aged 26)47Italy Juventus
5MFFrancisco Silva11 February 1986 (aged 28)12Spain Osasuna
6MFCarlos Carmona21 February 1987 (aged 27)44Italy Atalanta
7FWAlexis Sánchez19 December 1988 (aged 25)67Spain Barcelona
8MFArturo Vidal22 May 1987 (aged 27)54Italy Juventus
9FWMauricio Pinilla4 February 1984 (aged 30)27Italy Cagliari
10MFJorge Valdívia3 October 1983 (aged 30)57Brazil Palmeiras
11FWEduardo Vargas20 November 1989 (aged 24)30Spain Valencia
12GKCristopher Toselli22 June 1988 (aged 25)4Chile Universidad Católica
13DFJosé Rojas3 June 1983 (aged 31)19Chile Universidad de Chile
14MFFabián Orellana27 January 1986 (aged 28)26Spain Celta Vigo
15MFJean Beausejour3 June 1984 (aged 30)59England Wigan Athletic
16MFFelipe Gutiérrez8 October 1990 (aged 23)18Netherlands Twente
17DFGary Medel3 August 1987 (aged 26)61Wales Cardiff City
18DFGonzalo Jara29 August 1985 (aged 28)65England Nottingham Forest
19MFJosé Pedro Fuenzalida22 February 1985 (aged 29)23Chile Colo-Colo
20MFCharles Aránguiz17 April 1989 (aged 25)21Brazil Internacional
21MFMarcelo Díaz30 December 1986 (aged 27)21Switzerland Basel
22FWEsteban Paredes1 August 1980 (aged 33)35Chile Colo-Colo
23GKJohnny Herrera9 May 1981 (aged 33)8Chile Universidad de Chile
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
Number/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club
1GKMathew Ryan8 April 1992 (aged 22)7Belgium Club Brugge
2DFIvan Franjić10 September 1987 (aged 26)9Australia Brisbane Roar
3DFJason Davidson29 June 1991 (aged 22)7Netherlands Heracles Almelo
4FWTim Cahill6 December 1979 (aged 34)69United States New York Red Bulls
5MFMark Milligan4 August 1985 (aged 28)29Australia Melbourne Victory
6DFMatthew Špiranović27 June 1988 (aged 25)18Australia Western Sydney Wanderers
7FWMathew Leckie4 February 1991 (aged 23)8Germany FSV Frankfurt
8DFBailey Wright28 July 1992 (aged 21)0England Preston North End
9FWAdam Taggart2 June 1993 (aged 21)5Australia Newcastle Jets
10MFBen Halloran14 June 1992 (aged 21)2Germany Fortuna Düsseldorf
11MFTommy Oar10 December 1991 (aged 22)15Netherlands Utrecht
12GKMitchell Langerak22 August 1988 (aged 25)3Germany Borussia Dortmund
13MFOliver Bozanić8 January 1989 (aged 25)3Switzerland Luzern
14MFJames Troisi3 July 1988 (aged 25)11Australia Melbourne Victory
15MFMile Jedinak (c)3 August 1984 (aged 29)44England Crystal Palace
16MFJames Holland15 May 1989 (aged 25)14Austria Austria Wien
17MFMatt McKay11 January 1983 (aged 31)47Australia Brisbane Roar
18GKEugene Galeković12 June 1981 (aged 33)8Australia Adelaide United
19DFRyan McGowan15 August 1989 (aged 24)9China Shandong Luneng Taishan
20MFDario Vidošić8 April 1987 (aged 27)23Switzerland Sion
21MFMassimo Luongo25 September 1992 (aged 21)1England Swindon Town
22DFAlex Wilkinson13 August 1984 (aged 29)3South Korea Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
23MFMark Bresciano11 February 1980 (aged 34)74Qatar 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
Number/Name/DOB/International Caps/Club

1GKJasper Cillessen22 April 1989 (aged 25)8Netherlands Ajax
2DFRon Vlaar16 February 1985 (aged 29)24England Aston Villa
3DFStefan de Vrij5 February 1992 (aged 22)12Netherlands Feyenoord
4DFBruno Martins Indi8 February 1992 (aged 22)16Netherlands Feyenoord
5DFDaley Blind9 March 1990 (aged 24)12Netherlands Ajax
6MFJonathan de Guzmán13 September 1987 (aged 26)10Wales Swansea City
7DFDaryl Janmaat22 July 1989 (aged 24)16Netherlands Feyenoord
8MFNigel de Jong13 November 1984 (aged 29)71Italy Milan
9FWRobin van Persie (c)6 August 1983 (aged 30)85England Manchester United
10MFWesley Sneijder9 June 1984 (aged 30)99Turkey Galatasaray
11MFArjen Robben23 January 1984 (aged 30)75Germany Bayern Munich
12DFPaul Verhaegh1 September 1983 (aged 30)2Germany Augsburg
13DFJoël Veltman15 January 1992 (aged 22)2Netherlands Ajax
14DFTerence Kongolo14 February 1994 (aged 20)1Netherlands Feyenoord
15FWDirk Kuyt22 July 1980 (aged 33)98Turkey Fenerbahçe
16MFJordy Clasie27 June 1991 (aged 22)8Netherlands Feyenoord
17FWJeremain Lens24 November 1987 (aged 26)22Ukraine Dynamo Kyiv
18MFLeroy Fer5 January 1990 (age 24)6England Norwich City
19FWKlaas-Jan Huntelaar12 August 1983 (aged 30)62Germany Schalke 04
20MFGeorginio Wijnaldum11 November 1990 (aged 23)5Netherlands PSV 
21MFMemphis Depay13 February 1994 (aged 20)6Netherlands PSV
22GKMichel Vorm3 October 1983 (aged 30)14Wales Swansea City
23GKTim Krul3 April 1988 (aged 26)5England 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.

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