We’re 9 days away from the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. For some, it’s been four years of edge-of-your-seat anticipation since Spain slid by the Netherlands to win its first World Cup, while for others you might just be realizing at this moment that you want to catch a match or two because nothing better is on. Either way, WE GOT YOU. We’ll ease you in slowly over the remaining business days with group-by-group breakdowns, which of course, if you follow closely, will lead you to office pool glory. We even covered the bases for you if literacy isn’t your thing, and embedded 10-minute audio clips breaking down the groups at the bottom of each post.

Lastly, if you’re in Austin, Texas during the World Cup, come grab a hearty pint with Bro Jackson’s leading soccer nerds, Ramon Ramirez and Stephen Whiting, co-hosts of the International Player’s Anthem podcast, as we do pre- and postgame shows alongside our friends at OneOfUs.net live from The Mohawk.

Without further ado, let’s get this thing started.

Related: Group A


In day two of our World Cup Preview we tackle a doozy. Group B features the two finalists from World Cup 2010 in its opening match, Spain and the Netherlands. It also features one of the brightest rising nations in world soccer in Chile, that had to play Spain in the group stages in 2010 as well, finishing second in that group and advancing to the Sweet16 for the first time since its last appearance in a World Cup 12 years prior in France. Then there’s Australia. The Socceroos made waves in Germany back in 2006, advancing to the knockout stages, but missed out on goal differential to Ghana in 2010. SPOILER ALERT: Things will get worse for Australia.

We’ll start things off with the team of the last half decade, Spain. La Roja has won three major tournaments, two European championships, and the 2010 World Cup since 2008. Its Golden Generation is getting older though, 18 of the 23 members from Euro 2012 remain in the squad despite ages of 30 (Fernando Torres), 32 (David Villa), 32 (Xabi Alonso), 34 (Xavi Hernandez), 30 (Andres Iniesta), and 33 (Iker Casillas). That’s not to say there isn’t some youth in the squad in Koke (22), or even some key players at peak ages in Sergio Ramos (28), Diego Costa (25), Sergio Busquets (25), and Cesc Fabregas (27). Either way, this appears to be Spain’s last hurrah at the top of the mountain. It appeared that peak had already passed at last summer’s Confederations Cup final when Brazil snapped Spain’s 29-match unbeaten record in sizzling 3-0 fashion. But, Spain also hiccupped at the 2009 Confederations Cup against the United States, snapping a then 35-match unbeaten run, and went on to win the World Cup a year later. So maybe there was a bit of a rush to judgment here. As things stand now, it’s still the favorite to win this group.

The Netherlands has long been considered a world force in soccer, most notably revolutionizing the game with it’s “Total Football” style in the ’70s. Usually, the roster is a cluster of absolute star-power, but this year’s squad is a smattering of superstars entering the respective twilights of their careers, and unproven youth. While Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie, and Wesley Sneidjer have all proven they can score goals at the highest of levels, the defensive line is essentially the back line of Dutch club Feyenoord, runners-up this past season, with most of the players under the age of 25. It’s a bit of a gamble, one that will make outgoing manager Louis Van Gaal (who is joining Manchester United at the conclusion of this tournament) look like a genius, or an idiot. Despite absolutely destroying its qualifying group in Europe to make this summer’s tournament in Brazil with nine wins and a draw in its 10 matches, many (yes, us) see this Dutch team as ripe for disappointment with an early round exit.

The third team in this group is Chile, a squad that surprised many by getting out of the group stages in 2010 despite being placed in a group with Spain and Switzerland. The Chileans impressed in qualifying, finishing third in South America, displaying a dynamic goal scoring prowess on the backs of Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez and Juventus stalwart Arturo Vidal. Just like in any other sport, the ability to put points on the board is truly a wildcard in tournament play, and for that reason Chile is a huge trend pick to escape this group and advance to the knockout round of 16.

The fourth and final team in this group is Australia. This team was a fan favorite at Germany in 2006 when it was eliminated in the round of 16 on a controversial penalty in the dying minutes of the game against eventual tournament champions, Italy. Australia followed that performance up by narrowly missing out on advancing to the knockout stages on goal difference to Ghana, courtesy of a 4-0 drubbing it received at the hands of Germany in the opener. United States fans might wonder “what if” in reference to having faced Australia in that match as opposed to the Black Stars. Oh well. Australia this time around should just be happy to be here. It qualified second out of its final group pot in Asian qualifying and fourth out of the five Asian teams overall. The roster is extremely young and this World Cup will mostly be a building block.

Spain v Bolivia - International Friendly






Three fun facts cut and pasted from Wikipedia

1. Modern humans first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around 35,000 years ago. It came under Roman rule around 200 BCE, after which the region was named Hispania.

2. Nineteenth and much of 20th-century Spanish and Portuguese historiography stressed the existence of a continuous phenomenon by which the Christian Iberian kingdoms opposed and conquered the Muslim kingdoms understood as a common enemy from the early eighth century to the late fifteenth century. However, the ideology of a Christian reconquest of the peninsula started to take shape at the end of the 9th century.

3. The Napoleonic War left Spain economically ruined, deeply divided, and politically unstable. In the chaos, Spain’s American colonies declared independence, leading to wars of independence that ended Spanish control of its mainland colonies in the Americas.

Greatest World Cup high

Winning it all in 2010. Pretty easy peak to cite, because this had been one of the most historically underachieving national teams in global soccer.


Keeper Iker Casillas, the armband-wearer since 2006, and the country’s most decorated captain ever with 153 starts in goal.


Casillas, fresh off a Champions League title anchoring Real Madrid. Just one of the all-time greats.


Diego Costa is sort of everything, as the Brazilian-born forward that terrorized La Liga this year with Atletico Madrid has long-been the most bankable striking option. But now his right thigh muscle is injured–he lasted less than 10 minutes last month in the Champions League final–yet Spain will stubbornly trot him out over the elite but old David Villa and Fernando Torres.

Netherlands v Ecuador - International Friendly






Three fun facts cut and pasted from Wikipedia

1. Under Charles V, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Spain, the current Netherlands region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Low Countries, which also included most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and some land in France and Germany.In 1568, the Eighty Years’ War between the Provinces and Spain began. In 1579, the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces forged the Union of Utrecht, a treaty in which they committed to support each other in their defence against the Spanish army.

2. The Dutch Golden Age was a period in Dutch history, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. The first half is characterized by the Eighty Years’ War which ended in 1648. The Golden Age continued in peacetime during the Dutch Republic until the end of the century. The Netherlands’s transition from a possession of the Holy Roman Empire in the 1590s to the foremost maritime and economic power in the world has been called the “Dutch Miracle” by historian K. W. Swart.

3. The 1953 North Sea flood (Dutch, Watersnoodramp, literally “water ordeal disaster”) was a major flood caused by a heavy storm, that occurred on the night of Saturday, January 31, 1953 and morning of Sunday, February 1, 1953. The floods struck the Netherlands, Belgium, England, and Scotland. A combination of a high spring tide and a severe European windstorm over the North Sea caused a storm tide of the North Sea; the combination of wind, high tide, and low pressure led to a water level of more than 5.6 metres (18.4 ft) above mean sea level in some locations. The flood and waves overwhelmed sea defenses and caused extensive flooding. The Netherlands, a country with 20 percent of its territory below mean sea level and 50 percent less than one metre (3.3 ft) above sea level and which relies heavily on sea defenses, was worst affected, recording 1,836 deaths and widespread property damage.

Greatest World Cup high

Second place in 1974, 1978, and 2010 World Cups, losing to West Germany, Argentina, and Spain.


The 30-year-old Robin van Persie.


Swansea City’s Michel Vorm.


Robin van Persie made a paltry 21 appearances for Manchester United this season, but if he stays healthy–that eternal sports cliche again–he’s the best forward in Group B.

sanchez chile






Three fun facts cut and pasted from Wikipedia

1. There are various theories about the origin of the word Chile. According to 17th-century Spanish chronicler Diego de Rosales, the Incas called the valley of the Aconcagua “Chili” by corruption of the name of a Picunche tribal chief (“cacique”) called Tili, who ruled the area at the time of the Incan conquest in the 15th century. Another theory points to the similarity of the valley of the Aconcagua with that of the Casma Valley in Peru, where there was a town and valley named Chili. Other theories say Chile may derive its name from a Native American word meaning either “ends of the earth” or “sea gulls”; from the Mapuche word chilli, which may mean “where the land ends;”or from the Quechua chiri, “cold”, or tchili, meaning either “snow” or “the deepest point of the Earth”. Another origin attributed to chilli is the onomatopoeic cheele-cheele—the Mapuche imitation of the warble of a bird locally known as trile. The Spanish conquistadors heard about this name from the Incas, and the few survivors of Diego de Almagro’s first Spanish expedition south from Peru in 1535–36 called themselves the “men of Chilli”. Ultimately, Almagro is credited with the universalization of the name Chile, after naming the Mapocho valley as such. The older spelling “Chili” was in use in English until at least 1900 before switching over to “Chile.”

2. In 1520, while attempting to circumnavigate the earth, Ferdinand Magellan discovered the southern passage now named after him, the Strait of Magellan, thus becoming the first European to set foot on today’s Chile.

3. The diverse climate of Chile ranges from the world’s driest desert in the north—the Atacama Desert—through a Mediterranean climate in the center, humid subtropical in Easter Island, to an oceanic climate, including alpine tundra and glaciers in the east and south.

Greatest World Cup high

Hosted in 1962, finished third.


Real Sociedad’s 31-year-old starting keeper, Claudio Bravo.


Bravo, known as affectionately as El Condor Chico. The little condor.


Alexis Sanchez is the all-world forward, Arturo Vidal is the Juventus man that runs the midfield. This is the best team Chile has ever fielded, make no mistake.







Three fun facts cut and pasted from Wikipedia

1. Legends of Terra Australis Incognita—an “unknown land of the South”—date back to Roman times and were commonplace in medieval geography, although not based on any documented knowledge of the continent. Following European discovery, names for the Australian landmass were often references to the famed Terra Australis.

2. Human habitation of the Australian continent is estimated to have begun between 42,000 and 48,000 years ago, possibly with the migration of people by land bridges and short sea-crossings from what is now South-East Asia.

3. The first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland, and the first recorded European landfall on the Australian continent, are attributed to the Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon. He sighted the coast of Cape York Peninsula in early 1606.

Greatest World Cup high

The Socceroos got to the World Cup in 1974, 2006, and 2010, so it’s a short list of success. But they did lose on a controversial penalty in the Sweet 16 of the ’06 World Cup to eventual champs, Italy.


Midfielder Mile Jedinak, who also captains English Premier League club team Crystal Palace.


Thirty-two-year-old Eugene Galeković, who plays his ball in Australia’s domestic league for Adelaide United FC.


Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano are the only guys here that have made 50 or more starts–it’s a green squad here in Brazil for the beaches. Cahill became the first Australian to ever score in a World Cup back in ’06, but now he’s 34 and in MLS purgatory. Across the board, this Australian team will be lucky to earn a point here.

Top 10 players in Group B

10. Javi Martinez, Spain

The Spaniard has been absolutely crucial to club team Bayern Munich’s success over the last two seasons, anchoring the hole between midfield and defense. Martinez is a complete player who can defend, pass, and score.

9. Robin van Persie, Netherlands

A big name with big expectations, Van Persie was expected to make this his World Cup just one summer ago following a monster season with Manchester United. The Dutchman however has battled injuries all season and the jury is still out on just how big of an impact he’ll have in Brazil. The lone goal in a 1-0 tune-up victory over Ghana is a good start though.

8. Andres Iniesta, Spain

Iniesta along with Xavi has been paramount to Spain’s six-year hardware haul, scoring the extra time winner against the Netherlands in the 2010 final to secure that nation’s first ever World Cup title. His ability to find space and his incisive passing are trademarks of his game.

7. Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands

Realistically, Sneijder may be the most important player in the Dutch team. He’s been a mainstay since the age of 18, appearing for the Dutch at Euro 2004, 2008, 2012, and at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups winning the 2010 Bronze Boot and 2010 Silver Ball awards as well as earning spots on the 2008 and 2010 all-tournament teams.

6. Diego Costa, Spain

Perhaps no player enters this tournament with more question marks than Spain’s Diego Costa. Born Brazilian, Costa opted for a one-time switch to his adopted nation of Spain early in 2014 much to the public chagrin of Brazil. His play over the last four years has seen him take Atletico Madrid to new heights including a Europa League title in 2012, a Copa Del Rey title in 2013, and the Spanish La Liga title in 2014. Costa comes into this tournament as a major injury concern though having to leave the 2014 UEFA Champions League Final after only 10 minutes, and has very few international matches with his Spanish teammates, leaving many to wonder just how much action he’ll see in Brazil.

5. Arturo Vidal, Chile

Vidal has been absolutely essential to helping Italian club team Juventus to a historic three-peat as league champions the last three seasons. He’s also been critical to the rise of the Chilean national team with strikers Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez. Vidal patrols from box-to-box removing opposing threats and instantly creating chances for the Chileans. As with Costa, Vidal is a bit of an injury concern after having a keyhole procedure done on his knee just a few weeks before the tournament in Brazil.

4. Xavi Hernandez, Spain

This entry should probably say, “see: Iniesta, Andres.” The truth is the skillset is very similar, with Xavi four years Iniesta’s senior. This will more than likely be the 34-year-old’s last major tournament with Spain. The skillset is starkly similar to Iniesta with Iniesta being a slightly better attacking option, with Xavi’s vision and passing considered to be quite possibly the best in the world.

3. Alexis Sanchez, Chile

Despite only being 25 years old, Sanchez is already fifth on the very illustrious all time scoring list for the Chilean national team. He’s been plying his trade for world-beating club Barcelona in Spain since 2011 and also helped the Chileans surprise England at Wembley, scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory in November. Sanchez comes into this tournament after a career year in Spain, with 21 goals in all competitions.

2. Arjen Robben, Netherlands

Arjen Robben was just millimeters away from being crowned hero of the 2010 World Cup. A non-penalty call and a spectacular toe-save by Iker Casillas robbed the Dutchman of regulation time goals before Spain’s Andres Iniesta stole victory away in overtime. Robben’s play is characterized by his blistering speed and his reliance on his deadly left foot. It’s almost comical to watch Robben attempt shots because you always know what he’s going to do. His quickness is so elite, however, that Robben routinely attempts the same style of dribble and shot despite the defensive player knowing exactly what he is going to do. Like Sneijder, Robben has appeared at Euro 2004, 2008, 2012 and the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

1. Sergio Ramos, Spain

Given the star-power and attacking-centric names on this list, it might be a bit of a surprise to see Sergio Ramos here. Maybe we’re a bit biased and goal-drunk after Ramos scored two in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal to shock defending champion Bayern Munich then followed that up with a 93rd minute lifeline to send the Champions League Final to overtime. Or maybe it was this free kick he scored in between those two matches against Valladolid.

Either way you look at it, Ramos is a stud defender for both club and country, and when you throw in his ability to come up big in big matches, you’re talking about a player that can change the course of entire tournaments. For that reason, Ramos claims the top spot in Group B.

Biggest, baddest game of the group

Chile v. Netherlands

There will most certainly be some clamor for the Spain-Netherlands opener as the biggest match in this group, and rightfully so, but we are of the opinion that this match will decide who gets out of this group in second place. There will be quite a bit of drama. We’re taking the Chileans here, both defenses aren’t anything to write home about, but Chile has more firepower up top and we think will be able to outlast the Dutch on its home continent. It’s a bold pick, we know.

Let’s chat about Group B

How they’ll finish

Spain – 9 points

Chile – 6 points

Netherlands – 3 points

Australia – 0 points

Spain should be able to hold serve and get out of this group with three consecutive victories. We like Chile to open up with a solid win over hapless Australia, lose narrowly to Spain (just like in 2010), and outlast the Netherlands on the last day to squeak through. That should leave the Netherlands with a mere consolation victory over Australia on day two.