Preview: 2014 FIFA World Cup – Group B
This is a quite complicated Group: Netherlands - we consider Euro2012 just an unlucky event - and Spain should be the favorites (it will be the rematch of 2010 Final), but Chile is ready to surprise them and will be a very hard opponent for both oh them, especially for Holland.
We don’t give Australia any chance.
This squad is weaker than the one we saw in South Africa in 2010, and much weaker than the one we had seen in Germany in 2006, that was a very good team: chances to qualify for Round of 16 are near to 0.
They reached Brazil after a quite troubled Qualifying Stage, and then, after two very disappointing friendlies (two 6-0 defeats against Brazil and France), Manager Holger Osieck, who in our opinion couldn’t have done much better, was sacked and was replaced by Ange Postecoglou.
In the past several Australian prospects were used to go to play abroad in order to improve themselves, now a lot of them stay in the local A-League, whose level has increased (it should be the same of the second tier in Italy, England, Germany etc.), but is still far from the top European and South American leagues, while several other Australian footballers move to other Asian Countries (Australia is a member of AFC), in which they are very wanted, because in many Asian leagues one of the few foreign players, that are allowed to be signed, must come from another AFC Federation.
After defending “Socceroos’” goal in the Qualifying Stage, few months ago 41-year-old Maik Schwarzer (Chelsea FC, we sah him playing in Champions League Semi-finals) retired from International football, but Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund’s second GK) and, most of all, Mathew Ryan (Club Brugge, best goalkeeper in the last Belgian Championship) should be valid heirs.
Just three players were in the 2006 strong squad: midfielders Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), and Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), who is probably the most important and the most experienced player in the team (now he plays in more offensive roles).
The midfield looks the best part in the team with Captain Mile Jerdinak (Crystal Palace), James Holland (Austria Vienna) and the winger Tommy Oar (FC Utrecht), while in the attack there are many hopes on 21-year-old Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets), the top scorer of 2013/14 A-League, but he shouldn’t be a starter.
There isn’t a part of the team much weaker than the other ones, maybe the defence, but the whole team doesn’t look very solid.
Unless Adam Taggart exploded at international level as well, a strong pure striker could be missing.
INTERNATIONAL RETIREMENT: Maik Schwarzer (FC Chelsea), Bret Holman (Al Nasr).
INJURIED: Robbie Kruse (Bayer 04 Leverkusen).
NOT CALLED UP: Luke Wilshire (Dynamo Moscow), Joshua Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus).
Ryan – Franjic Spiranovic Good Davidson - Jerdinak (C) Holland (Milligan) - Vidosic Bresciano (Cahill) Oar - Cahill (Taggart).
This isn’t an easy opponent, there’s a lot of quality and class in this team, that will be very hard to beat: a qualification to Round of 16 is not impossible.
The experienced GK Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad) looks quite reliable.
The midfield is probably the best part of the team, in which there are very ductile players such as Arturo Vidal (Juventus), who can score many goals and is, together with Alexis Sanchez, the star of the team, Mauricio Isla (Juventus) and Jean Beausejour (Wigan Athletic); moreover, like Portugal, Chile can field a lot of good offensive midfielders, second strikers and wingers, such as Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras), Fabián Orellana (Celta Vigo), Eduardo Vargas (Valencia CF) and, most of all, Alexis Sanchez (FC Barcelona).
Despite having some more than decent players, such as Gary Medel (Cardiff City) and Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest), the defence doesn’t look too strong; but the main issue is the lack of a strong physical striker, because Chilean forwards are mainly wingers or second strikers, generally not very tall.
Usually that kind of player is Humberto Suazo (Monterrey CF, Mexico), one of the few strong and physical Chilean forwards, but he won’t be in Brazil because of a serious injury: Mauricio Pinilla (Cagliari) is maybe the only player in the squad that could be quite similar to him, but anyway the starter should be the shorter and older Esteban Paredes (Colo-Colo), who has always had a high goal-scoring-average in South America, and who is having an amazing 2014 Season in Chilean Primera Divisiòn.
NOT CALLED UP: David Pizzarro (ACF Fiorentina).
INJURIED: Humberto Suazo (Monterrey CF).
Bravo (C), Isla Medel (Jara) M.Gonzalez Mena, Aranguiz Vidal Diaz, Valdivia, Sanchez Vargas.
Bravo (C), Jara (M.Gonzalez) Medel (Jara, Vidal) Rojas, Isla Vidal Diaz Mena, Valdivia (Paredes, Pinilla), Sanchez Vargas.
Paredes or Pinilla could play central forward, replacing the offensive midfielder Valdivia: in this case the team would play with 4-3-3 scheme.
We consider the disappointing performance at Euro2012 just an episode that could happen in a very difficult Group of just four teams: anyway that Competition ended Van Marwijk‘s experience on the Dutch bench, and he was replaced by Luis Van Gaal, that, according to the writer of this post (Maxi Lozzo), is one of the best managers in the world, because he can make his teams play a pleasant football and get good results as well.
The qualification came quite easily, winning almost every match of a not very difficult Group; anyway after the end of the World Cup, the Dutchman will end his work with the National Team and will be Manchester United FC‘s new manager.
We don’t include Holland among the biggest favorites for the Title, but their victory can never be considered a surprise.
This squad is anagrafically a bit strange, because it’s divided in two big groups: in the first one, as usual, there are a lot of youngsters, especially in the defence, who are mostly from Feyenoord, a team that, thanks to them, is coming back to the leading positions of Dutch football, while in the second Group there are older players, who are alredy over 30, are the biggest stars in the team and are mostly forwards and offensive midfielders.
The footballers born between 1985 and 1989, that should be in the middle of their professional careers, are quite underrepresented: they are just 4 (Vlaar, de Guzmán, Lens and Janmaat), not including the Goalkeepers.
GKs Tim Krul (Newcastle United) and Michel Vorm (Swansea FC) look quite reliable, so that Marvin Stekelenburg (Fulham FC) hasn’t been called up after a very disappointing Season in England, but anyway the starter should be Jasper Cillessen (AFC Ajax).
The attack, where there are the most experienced players, is probably the best part of the squad: Van Gaal will have to leave sitted on the bench one between Robin Van Persie (Manchester United) and, probably, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke 04), two striker that can both score a lot of goals.
Moreover there are plenty of offensive midfielders, wingers, and second strikers, such as Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbahce), Arjen Robben (Bayern München FC), Jermaine Lens (Dinamo Kyiv, he’s very liked by the Manager) and Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray AS), that with their class increase a lot the quality of the team, and sometimes they can solve the match thanks to their “inventions”.
In the midfield the strong tackler Nigel De Jong (AC Milan) fully recovered from a serious injury and will be very precious to keep the team balanced.
Among the youngsters, the most promising ones should be the defender Bruno Martins Indi (Feyenoord) and midfielders Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV) and Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord).
The defence is very young, maybe too much: that means a lot of freshness and atlethicity, but less international experience as well, because just Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa, 29 years old) has collected so far more than 20 caps for the National Team, while nobody else reached 15 (at the beginning of June, when this post was written); moreover Feyenoord, that provides several defenders to the team, hasn’t played the Group Stage of an European competiton for years.
In the midfield injuries caused the defections of Rafael Van der Vaart (Hamburger SV) and, most of all, of the excellent playmaker Kevin Strootman (AS Roma). They will be very difficult to be replaced, and the new playmaker has still to be choosen: in the friendlies Van Gaal has fielded so far Jordy Clasie, Jonathan de Guzmán (Swansea City AFC) and Leroy Fer (Norwich City).
The majority of the teams in Eredivise (Dutch Championship) plays with 4-3-3, and few players couldn’t adapt very well to 4-2-3-1, that probably will be used by Van Gaal and that maybe fits better to the offensive footballers that play abroad.
INJURIED: Kevin Strootman (AS Roma), Rafael Van der Vaart (Hamburger SV).
NOT CALLED UP: Marvin Stekelenburg (Fulham FC), John Heitinga (Fulham FC), Gregory Van Der Wiel (PSG).
Cillessen - Janmaat Vlaar MartinsIndi Blind - DeGuzman (Clasie, Fer) DeJongh - Lens Sneijder Robben - VanPersie (C).
You probably already know this team very well and don’t need any introduction.
The Spaniards won two European Championships and a World Cup (in the middle) in a row: of course they are among the biggest favorites, even if Brazil showed how to defeat tiki-taka during last Confederations Cup.
9 footballers play in England, 3 in Italy and 1 Germany, while the other ones in La Liga, mainly for Barcellona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid.
There’s a lot of quality in almost every part of the team, especially in the midfield: the playmaker will probably be one between Xavi (FC Barcellona), that now is getting older and a bit less brilliant, but is still a key player, and Xabi Alonso, while Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcellona), who can play winger as well, and Cesc Fabregas (FC Barcellona) should contest for another place.
There are a lot wingers and offensive midfielders as well, such as the ”English” Juan Mata (Chelsea FC), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal FC) and David Silva (Manchester City FC), and the very fast, maybe less technically skilled, Pedro (FC Barcellona).
The Brazilian Diego Costa (Atlético de Madrid), a big surprise from last La Liga, chose to represent Spain and made the attack even stronger: he’ll probably take the place of Del Bosque’s favourites David Villa (Atlético de Madrid), who is probably in the descending phasis of his career and in January will move to Australia and then to USA, and to the discontinuous Fernando Torres (Chelsea FC): anyway both of them were preferred to players like Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City FC), Fernando Llorente (Juventus FC) and Roberto Soldado (Valencia CF).
Moreover the defensive phasis is very well cared, and is maybe the real strenght of the team, together with ball possession.
Spanish play is less offensive than people normally think: they pass eachother the ball a lot of times, making a lot of ball possession in order to wear the opponents out until they concede a dangerous chance that could be letal for them. After the first goal, more could follow because the other team tries to move forward in order to equalize, so conceding the Spaniards more chances to add goals, but at the origin of that there’s a great attention for the defence (at 2010 World Cup they won 1-0 the majority of the games).
The defensive pair composed by Gerard Piqué (FC Barcellona) and Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid CF) looks solid and consolidated: the second one is also very dangerous in the opposite penalty area.
The three GKs don’t look too reliable: the starter should be Iker Casillas, the Captain, who plays “just” Champions League and Copa del Rey with Real Madrid (anyway several matches, because the “Merengues” won both of them), losing his place in La Liga to Diego Lopez, because Casillas is able to make certain amaziong saves, but quite big mistakes as well.
NOT CALLED UP: Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City FC), Fernando Llorente (Juventus FC) e Roberto Soldado (Valencia CF).
IkerCasillas (C) – Arbeloa (Azipuliceta) SergioRamos Piqué (JaviMartinez) JordiAlba – Xavi (XabiAlonso) Busquets (JaviMartinez) Iniesta (CescFabregas) – DavidSilva (JuanMata) DiegoCosta Pedro (Iniesta).
IkerCasillas (C) – Arbeloa (Azipuliceta) SergioRamos Piqué (JaviMartinez) JordiAlba – Xavi (XabiAlonso) Busquets - Pedro (SantiCazorla, JuanMata) CescFabregas (DavidSilva) Iniesta - DiegoCosta.