Andres Iniesta

World Cup Preview Group B: Reigning Spain meets Chile, Netherlands, Australia

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Reigning Spain will meet anything but plain teams in Group B.

A loaded group with stars to burn — Arjen Robben doesn’t even make our Top Five players for the bunch — Group B should provide a bunch of terrific games. Australia is the afterthought of the four, but anything could happen and a Socceroos upset behind Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak would provide an even wilder card.

Let’s take another look at Group B (click on country name for full preview)

Spain: Loaded, as usual. The only question is whether they’ll adjust to the hemispheric chance right away in what is the likely the last go-round for a group of legendary Spaniards that includes Xavi, David Villa and Xabi Alonso.

Netherlands: Never rule out a team with Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Robben, though it can be tempting. Can they turn back the clocks of time past 2012’s Euro struggles to the World Cup final run of 2010? Can they avoid murdering each other in training?

Chile: Look out for La Roja. Their only losses since March 2013 are to Brazil and Germany, with both matches played far from South America. The fan expectation will be getting out of the group, but is that fair?

Australia: Can Jedinak and Cahill skipper the Socceroos out of the round? Doubtful, but everyone loves an underdog.

Who’s going through: Spain and Chile. Especially given the South American locale, I wouldn’t sleep on the Chileans to spring a surprise and win the group.

Who’s going home: Australia and the Netherlands. Call it a shock if you will, but Holland is without its maestro in Kevin Strootman and is fresh off a major disappointment at Euro 2012. The Davy Klaassen-era is next, but he’s not even on this roster.

Marquee match: With apologies to the 2010 World Cup final rematch between the Dutch and Spain, Match 36 will pit Chile and the Netherlands against each other and is arguably for the right to advance. Both clubs will have played Spain, which will be finishing off its group stage against Australia.

Top players to watch:

5. David Silva, Spain

4. Robin van Persie, Netherlands

3. Arturo Vidal, Chile

2. Alexis Sanchez, Chile

1. Andres Iniesta, Spain

VIDEO: Marco Verratti plays a brilliant pass to Eder for Italy goal

PALERMO, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 06:  Marco Verratti of Italy in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Italy and Bulgaria on September 6, 2015 in Palermo, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
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Italy took a 1-0 lead over Azerbaijan through the in-form Eder in the 11th minute, but the true leg-work (see what I did there) came from bite-sized midfielder Marco Verratti.

The PSG playmaker pinged a beautiful long ball over the top of the Azerbaijan defense that fell right at the feet of Eder, who let the ball settle itself and touched home confidently past Kamran Arhayev for a 1-0 lead.

The goal is the second of Eder’s national career in just five caps, having scored on debut against Bulgaria back in March. He has six goals in seven matches for Sampdoria so far this Serie A season.

Italy needs three points in this match to ensure qualification to Euro 2016. A win would guarantee them a place in the field, while anything less would mean there is work to do in the final match on Tuesday against Norway.


Later in the match, Stephan El Shaarawy gave Italy a 2-1 lead just before halftime, his second career international goal and his first since September of 2012 which came in his third career start.

Agent: Liverpool contacted Klopp only after Rodgers firing

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09:  Jurgen Klopp arrives to be unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC at a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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As soon as Brendan Rodgers was dismissed by Liverpool on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s name was tossed around as the likely successor to the then-vacant Liverpool managerial position.

However, according to Klopp’s representatve Marc Kosicke, Liverpool did not make contact with the German until after Rodgers had been officially let go.

“The first call from Liverpool came after the dismissal as coach of Rodgers,” Kosicke told Bild. “Before Liverpool there were naturally quite a few inquiries. But Jurgen always asked me not to take it any further.”

Club management was less committal than Klopp’s rep, but did say they had their eye on the German for some time. “We have learned to keep certain matters confidential. We had a meeting recently with Jurgen that he has talked about and I don’t want to talk too much about these conversations. But we have thought about him for a long time and everyone who knows football knows he is an outstanding manager.”

It’s relatively hard to believe Liverpool would have canned Rodgers without knowing for sure that a top-level target such as Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti were on board to replace him. It also would mean discussions of the contract terms and logistics would have moved at lightning speed, with just four days between the Rodgers dismissal and Klopp’s official unveiling.