Today, we get our first real taste of the glory that is the World Cup, with three games across Groups A and B. We'll have our gamethreads for the three games later this morning, but for now, let's get our broader Group B predictions out of the way. This looks on paper like a really tough group, with three very strong teams vying not only to advance but to win the group. So, who will make it to the knockout rounds out of Spain, Chile, the Netherlands and Australia? Here's what our staff members think:
Adam M Taylor
Do not sleep on Chile. I think this entire World Cup will be a showcase for South America, and Chile will be at the forefront of that ascendence. I think they surprise Spain and run over the rest of the group. Meanwhile, Spain win the opening game rematch of the 2010 World Cup final match and join their fellow La Roja in the round of 16.
Spain is a juggernaut and the only thing stopping them from a minimum Semis appearance is Fernando Torres taking out his own players with studs to the ankles or something. While the Dutch are perennial underachievers, I pick them coming out of the group as well, while the Aussies crash out and Chile maybe intriguing some more a moment in a match or two before they get eliminated also.
How do you bet against Spain in this brutal group? They've been the best big tournament team since 2008, so expect them to lead the group. Because this tournament is in South America, I expect Chile to earn second place by nosing out a Dutch side that is good enough to win the tournament, but inevitably fated not to. Finally, the Australia Socceroos will perform their quadrennial service to mankind by reminding the entire globe the term soccer is historic and not just an Americanism.
Of all the European teams, Spain's style of play is best suited for Brazil's humidity. The reports of their demise have been exaggerated, and I see them taking 7 points from this group. Meanwhile, I see the Dutch paying a karmic cost for turning their back on good soccer in South Africa, with Chile stunning them in the final group game to go through. Speaking of karma, Australia finishes last because they employ a New York Red Bulls player.
La Furia Roja over the past 6 years might be the most dominant national team ever assembled. Still, this could be their last real shot at bringing a title home with them, and this will give them an added boost. Spain finishes 1st and the Orange Crush of The Netherlands finishes 2nd with Chile just missing out on the knockout stage party.
Like I said at the outset - tough to call. Now's your chance to do it though - share your predictions down in the comments.