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