MASTER GUIDE: Everything You Need To Know About World Cup Group B
Here it is, soccer fans. The Daily Caller’s Ultimate Master Guide To Everything You Ever Need To Know About The 2014 FIFA World Cup In Brazil.
Brace yourself for over a month’s worth of whining from the MLB/NFL/NBA purist who doesn’t understand the offside rule and insists the game “still sucks.” Prepare for some thoroughly embarrassing “expert” opinions from that guy in the bar who thinks the game was invented in 1992. And yes, there will more than likely be some tedious BuzzFeed listicles about the best player simulations, eccentric jerseys and players that look like cats.
All that aside, there should be some great entertainment on the field.
For the entirety of the tournament, Ewan Watt will be providing grizzled, foul-tempered Scottish punditry for The Daily Caller on everything you need to know about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. This will range from a comprehensive background on each team, short posts on the games, and some history, ranging from failed drug tests to a team’s struggle to understand the rules to why an Arab prince halted the game and got a referee’s decision overturned.
In the build up, we’ll be releasing guides to the different groups, so buckle in, study up and become the master you’ve always said you were anyway.
Click Here For Everything You Need To Know About Group A
Click Here For Everything You Need To Know About Group C
Click Here For Everything You Need To Know About Group D
Click Here For Everything You Need To Know About Group G
Click Here For Everything You Need To Know About Group H
Overview: Moving from the Oceanic qualifiers to the Asian group hasn’t proved any real impediment to Australia’s progress to the World Cup finals. They topped their initial group ahead of Oman, Saudi Arabia and Thailand, before progressing to the finals by virtue of a second-place finish behind Japan in the second stage of qualifiers.
Recent results don’t make for especially encouraging reading. In the last year, Australia have been beaten 6-0 by both Brazil and France, which cost Holger Osieck his job. The Socceroos also lost 4-3 to China and Ecuador, the latter of which they at one point led 3-0. The only recent victories have come over Canada, Costa Rica, Iraq and Jordan.
Brazil will be an experiment for Ange Postecoglou’s side, as he looks to inject youth and call time on seasoned veterans like former captain Lucas Neill. This side does lack some of the quality and depth Australians witnessed at their last two World Cups. It’s just as well they got a nice easy group then. Oh…
Best World Cup Performance: Second round (2006)
FIFA Ranking: 61st
Best Players: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bull), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Tommy Oar (Utrecht) and Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa).
Most famous World Cup moment: After a brief flirtation with the World Cup in 1974, Australia had to wait a further 32 years for their next opportunity. The highlight of their tournaments so far is undoubtedly a 3-1 victory over Japan in the opening match of their 2006 campaign. The Japanese were heavily favored, and had taken the lead in the first-half thanks to Shunsuke Nakamura. Australia managed to find three goals in the final eight minutes to claim their first ever victory at the World Cup. All of which led to…
… Most infamous: Having seen off Japan and held Croatia to a draw in the 2006 tournament, Australia was paired with the heavily fancied Italians in the second round. Italy had packed their squad with some of the finest players in the world. Somehow, Australia repelled them for the first half. Early in the second half, Italian defender Marco Materazzi was shown a red card, and suddenly the Australians had a chance. They came into the game more, looked more confident, and looked set to take the match to extra time. How would the Italians fare in another 30 minutes with a numerical disadvantage? We’ll never know, because Fabio Grosso took a dive in the Australian box, referee Luis Medina Cantalejo awarded a penalty, and Francisco Totti scored a 94th minute winner. Australia went out. Italy went on and won the tournament.
Sound like an expert: “The Australians are improving each tournament, but they just don’t have the quality to get out of a group like this one.”
Overview: Spain doesn’t really do losing. Since winning the European Championships in 2012, they’ve played 23 games, won 19, drawn three and lost just two. They dropped just four points in qualification, tying with France and Finland.
Despite such imperious form, there’s a distinct feeling that they’re not quite as invincible as they once were. Have the divisions at Barcelona and Real Madrid taken their toll? Aren’t the Camp Nou stars looking a bit tired? Does the ageing Xavi have the legs from four years ago? One thing is for certain — the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard Diego Costa (whose fitness remains a question mark) will receive a hostile reception from the home fans.
A 3-0 hammering against Brazil during the Confederations Cup final, a 1-0 defeat to South Africa, and a less-than-spectacular 2-1 win over Equatorial Guinea don’t offer too much encouragement. However, if you ever needed reassurance, Spain will leave more world-class talent out of their squad than most nations will take to Brazil.
Best World Cup Performance: Winners (2010)
FIFA Ranking: 1st
Best Players: Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta (all Barcelona), Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), David Silva (Manchester City), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid*), Juan Mata (Manchester United) and Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich).
Most famous World Cup moment: There’s a very good argument that suggests that the Spanish team of 2012 was the greatest international side we’ve ever seen. No team had won a European Championship, then a World Cup, then successfully defended that European Championship. Spain did so. Their victory at the 2010 World Cup was the greatest moment in a generation of great moments, and his teammates’ reaction to Andres Iniesta’s winner says it all.
… Most infamous: One might claim that every World Cup except 2010 was fairly infamous for the Spaniards, filled with heightened expectations and missed opportunities. One of the most miserable campaigns was at the 1998 World Cup in France, when a talented Spanish side was drawn in a fairly straightforward group against Nigeria, Paraguay and Bulgaria. But the Spaniards were quickly humbled in their opening game by Nigeria thanks to this fine strike from Sunday Oliseh and some disastrous goalkeeping from the legendary Andoni Zubizarreta. After tying against Paraguay, not even a 6-1 annihilation of 1994 semi-finalists Bulgaria could keep the Spaniards from taking the short journey home.
Sound like an expert: “Even if they choose not to field a recognized striker on the pitch, Spain will continue to pass teams to death.”
*At the time of writing, Diego Costa was undertaking a medical at Chelsea
Overview: The Dutch walked through their qualification group with minimal fuss. They comfortably dealt with the threats posed by Turkey and Romania, and thrashed Hungary 8-1. Their talisman and captain, Robin Van Persie, became the leading Dutch goal scorer of all time, overtaking Johan Cruyff. In all, the Dutch scored some 34 goals in qualification and conceded just five (the same amount they conceded in their three games in Euro 2012). A tie against Estonia prevented them from achieving a perfect 100 percent record.
Coach Louis van Gaal, who will leave for Manchester United at the World Cup’s conclusion, doesn’t have the same array of world superstars as readily available as some of his predecessors did, but he has drawn on talent from the Eredivisie to supplement the usual peppering of class acts from around Europe. The Dutch may well have one of the youngest squads at the World Cup, if recent selections are anything to go by. In their friendly with France, only one of the 22-man squad was over the age of 30, and only seven were older than 26.
Improving on a horrendous showing in the 2012 European Championships will be the main prerogative, and a challenging one given the group, but this Dutch side are a match for any nation — and making their way to the finals again is a real possibility. If they keep their focus.
Best World Cup Performance: Finalists (1974, 1978, 2010)
FIFA Ranking: 15th
Best Players: Robin van Persie (Manchester United), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray) and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke 04).
Most famous World Cup moment: Arguably the greatest football nation never to have won the World Cup, the Dutch blueprint is the most pervasive in modern football. Barcelona’s pressing game and Bayern Munich’s constant movement are direct descendants of the Dutch school. It may look simplistic in comparison to some of the feats we’ll see from Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, but Johan Cruyff’s turn against Sweden in the 1974 World Cup defined an era, and inspired a hundred thousand copycats.
… Most infamous: There are many who will suggest the Netherlands’ strong-arm tactics against Spain in the 2010 final are deserving of a place in the hall of shame. I’m not one of them. Far worse was Frank Rijkaard’s, eh, spat, with Rudi Voller in the 1990 World Cup. The Dutch and the Germans don’t get on well, for historical reasons, and the image of Voller, mullet glistening with spittle, is one of the enduring images of the tournament in Italy.
Sound like an expert: “The Dutch have one of the most talented squads around, and if they can avoid falling out with each other, there’s no reason they can’t repeat their exploits of four years ago.”
Overview: Chile has improved significantly over the last four years, first under the stringent, exhaustive discipline of Marcelo Bielsa, and now under Jorge Sampaoli, a student of the Bielsa school who took over the side as their form started to dip. The latter continued the former’s high-tempo, pressing football, and combined it with a newfound ruthlessness, helping Chile to a record-breaking run in their qualification campaign.
Since his arrival, there have been several eye-catching results, losing just three games out of 17 games. These impressive showings have also including a dismantling of Uruguay in the qualifiers, a highly credible draw in Brazil, and a thoroughly comprehensive 2-0 win over England at Wembley.
The last time people spoke so highly of a Chilean side was in 1998, when Iván Zamorano and Marcelo Salas helped bundle their side through to the last 16 after three ties. After flattering to deceive, the highly regarded 1998 side was swiftly put to the sword by Brazil in Paris. With similar expectations to 16 years ago, it will be interesting to see how Chile fares in Brazil.
Best World Cup Performance: Third (1962)
FIFA Ranking: 14th
Best Players: Mauricio Isla, Arturo Vidal (both Juventus), Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona) and Eduardo Vargas (Valencia).
Most famous World Cup moment: The 1962 World Cup was held in Chile, and was only the second time that they had taken part, having been eliminated early on in both 1930 and 1950. On home ground, it was a different story, as Chile saw off Switzerland and Italy in the group stages. This was a time when tensions over the Cold War were at their most fervent, and Communist states did all they could to show their superiority in sport. As a result, teams like Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union were feared around the world. Chile knocked out the Soviet Union in the quarter-finals. Their hopes of a victory on home turf were eventually extinguished by Brazil, but they still had enough left to score a final-minute winner in the third-place playoff with Yugoslavia, sparking wild scenes of celebration.
… Most infamous: Widely regarded as the single most despicable match in World Cup history, Italy faced Chile in 1962 in a game known as The Battle of Santiago. British commentator David Coleman saw fit to preface the BBC’s highlights of the match with a form of “Parental Guidance” warning, suggesting “what you are about to see is the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.” Italian journalists had been less than complimentary about Chile’s capital city, which was hosting the World Cup, raising tensions. Those tensions escalated even further when Italian Giorgio Ferrini was sent off for a vicious foul on Honorino Landa. Rather than take his dismissal in good grace, the police had to drag him from the field, during which time Landa landed a sucker-punch on Ferrini, unseen by the referee. Chile’s Leonel Sanchez then punched Italy’s Mario David, who retaliated by kicking his opponent in the head. The latter was sent off, while the former avoided punishment. Police interfered on several occasions, bones were broken and there were various outbreaks of violence in between. Chile eventually won 2-0, but that was just a foot note. If any good came from the match, it was that the referee, Englishman Ken Aston, would later invent the red and yellow cards in time for the 1970 World Cup.
Sound like an expert: “It’s a horrible group they’ve been drawn in, but if they manage to find a way out, Chile could just be the dark horses for a semi-final place this year.”