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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

World Cup 2014 Group B Picks (June 13-23)

We are most likely going to see one of the dark horses for the World Cup crown exiting the competition from Group B as reigning Champions Spain are placed alongside 2010 Runners Up Holland, Chile and Australia.

You can find my outright picks from the tournament here

Group A picks will be made here

Group C picks will be made here

Group D picks will be made here

Group E picks will be made here

Group F picks will be made here

Group G picks will be made here

Group H picks will be made here

Friday 13th June
Spain v Holland Pick: A repeat of the last World Cup Final is always going to be a big game, but it seems strange that Spain and Holland have to meet in their opening game of this edition of the World Cup. With Chile and Australia making up the teams in Group B, both Spain and Holland know the importance of getting off the mark with a victory that will give them a very strong chance of making it out of this section, as well as finishing top of the Group to avoid a likely Second Round match with Brazil.

Spain have been the benchmark of international football over the last six years as they have won two European Championships as well as the World Cup, and I am not putting in a great deal of stock in them losing the Confederations Cup last year- in fact, Spain didn't win that tournament which was played ahead of the World Cup in South Africa either, but that worked out well for them.

The addition of Diego Costa, who claims he is fully fit from the injury that forced him out of the Champions League Final after the opening ten minutes, gives Spain a different look than the 'false nine' they used four years ago and in the last European Championship.

Costa might not be everyone's cup of tea (see what I did there?!) but he is strong, has decent finishing and will give the ball playing midfielders the Spanish have something to aim for in the box- the Brazilian born forward has signed for Chelsea and can provide the goals that Spain have sometimes been lacking for all their possession football.

As a Manchester United fan, I am going to be especially interested to see what kind of philosophy Louis Van Gaal brings to the table for Holland who could be vulnerable in this Group. With every Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie, the Netherlands have a lot of inexperience in the defensive positions and the feeling is the loss of Kevin Strootman limits what Van Gaal wants to do.

The first game of the World Cup can be tough for teams who have the mentality of rather not losing than possibly winning games, but Spain will know they can't afford the same start of four years ago when they were beaten by Switzerland. I can be critical of the possession for possession sake football that Spain can be guilty of playing, but Diego Costa's fitness boost might give them more this time and I expect them to start with a win.

Chile v Australia Pick: Before the draw was made for the World Cup Groups, I was intrigued as to where Chile were going to be placed following some impressive displays in qualification and friendly games. Unfortunately for the South American team, the have been placed in one of the more difficult sections of the draw, although I believe they have the capabilities of surprising either Spain or Holland to move into the Second Round.

Unless Chile win the Group, they would then likely have to play the hosts Brazil, but for now they can concentrate on making the perfect start to the tournament against the overmatched Australian team that are not the force of old.

It has been suggested that Australia are already looking ahead to the Asian Cup that will be hosted by themselves and the draw for the Group inspires zero confidence in the Socceroos. There is a lot of inexperience going to Brazil and I think even earning a point from this Group would constitute a success for the Australians.

That doesn't mean they will play their games with a damage limitation philosophy and the expectation is that Australia will give each game a right go, but that might also see them come unstuck very quickly against the pace of Chile who love playing on the counter attack.

Chile have a lot of quality in their squad, chiefly coming from Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, and I can see them getting off to the perfect start with a comfortable win to open the Group. That would put a lot of pressure on the team that potentially loses the opening game of the Group between Holland and Spain, and I see the Chileans wearing down Australia and eventually winning by at least a couple of goals.

You could probably count on one hand the number of people who expected Holland to beat Spain in the first game in Group B, but it would have been like searching for a needle in a haystick to find the person who believed it would be as comprehensive as it was.

For all the plaudits the Netherlands deserved to get, the turning point was the big miss from David Silva that would have given Spain a 2-0 lead before half time, especially as Robin Van Persie equalised just a minute later. If Silva scores, I don't imagine Holland come back, so it would be far too quick to rule out Spain featuring in the Second Round.

Chile were very impressive against Australia in the early stages to underline their dark horse tag, but they did come off the boil and it was a nervy second half as the underdogs got close to an equaliser. The final 3-1 scoreline was harsh on the Australians, and a similar performance in their final two games may see them exceed the expectations of losing every game in the Group.

Australia v Holland Pick: There is the sense that the Netherlands are going to be a little over-rated going forward thanks to their stunning win over Spain in the first game at the World Cup, but I still think they are going to be too good for Australia. The latter played well after going 2-0 down to Chile, but the manner of the goals conceded has to be a concern against a team with the counter-attacking ability that the Dutch have shown.

However, I still don't have a lot of faith in the Holland backline which could have seen the team 2-0 down before they made their comeback against Spain and I do think Australia have the work ethic to at least give a good account of themselves.

The problem for Australia is keeping the ball out of their net and their performances over the last nine months suggest that will be the case again in this game. They have conceded six goals to Brazil and France, while Ecuador scored four and Chile were set to score a lot more than the three they managed in the first game of the Group.

Louis Van Gaal is a smart man and will know the importance of finishing top of the Group and won't want to leave that to chance with the goal being to avoid playing Brazil in the Second Round. Another big win on Wednesday against Australia would mean Holland are unlikely to be surpassed by Chile or Spain in the final round of fixtures no matter what those sides do and I do think the Dutch win this one by a couple of goals.

Spain v Chile Pick: I feel like a broken record, but the David Silva miss against the Netherlands sparked the huge turnaround in the result as far as I am concerned- if Spain had moved 2-0 in front, I don't think Holland would have come back, but the fact that the Dutch equalised a minute later turned the momentum irreversibly.

Do I think Spain are now a completely different side than the one I thought could win the World Cup a week ago? No, I think it was a terrible day in the office against the Netherlands which was made all the worse by some poor goalkeeping and I would expect the team that win the European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and the World Cup in 2010 to have a real reaction.

There is no doubt that the team looked a little slow once Holland got control of the last game and Spain have to be worried about a Chile team that have goals in the side and can work the possession they have very effectively.

Chile made a very good start against Australia, but they do look a little vulnerable at the back and the presence of Diego Costa could cause some problems in the air in the manner that Tim Cahill did for Australia. I still expect Chile will be able to score a goal in this game, but I have favoured Spain to beat them and finish above them in the Group and I think the Spanish can find the form that has won so many international tournaments over the last six years.

The market looks a little short for the Spain win on first glance considering the defensive problems highlighted by Holland and the counter-attack ability that Chile have. However, I think both teams will score in a game that Spain end up earning a vital three points to get their World Cup underway.

We knew Group B was going to provide the exit for one of the better teams in the World Cup after the draw was made, but I don't think anyone truly believed there would be a situation that saw the reigning European Champions and defending World Cup Champions Spain get ready to go home after two games.

More defensive mistakes from Iker Casillas left Spain with a deserved 0-2 loss to Chile in the second round of games and, coupled with Netherlands win over Australia, that meant Spain are out with the other two nations both moving through.

Australia have shown a lot of heart in their two losses, arguably more than Spain, and can finish above them in the section if they avoid a loss to the Spanish in their final game. It is a shame that Tim Cahill won't be taking part though as he is suspended after scoring a cracking goal in his final World Cup appearance.

The other game isn't a dead rubber either as the winner of the Chile-Netherlands game is likely to win the Group and avoid Brazil in the Second Round.

Australia v Spain Pick: A dead rubber and the 'end of an era' for a number of the Spain players makes this a difficult game to get a feel for, especially as Vicente Del Bosque is likely to make a number of changes to his first team that let him down so badly at the World Cup.

That should at least bring in some more hunger from the players to end the tournament on a high and they have previous when beating Bulgaria 6-0 in the final Group game at France 1998, a result that meant nothing in the grand scheme of things.

It is unlikely to be that kind of scoreline against this tough and surprisingly resilient Australia team that came to the World Cup with very few expectations, but have surpassed all of those goals. Some suggested Australia wouldn't score at the World Cup, but Tim Cahill has scored a couple of good goals although he will be a big miss on Monday.

I still think there could be goals in the Australia team that have pace up front and play with a direct style that could unsettle Spain- however, they have to be aware of a poor defensive record that has seen the Australians concede six goals in two games and the Spanish attackers given their chance may have some success too.

Three of the four games in the Group have seen at least four goals scored and I think a small interest in backing over 3.5 goals in this one is the call.

Holland v Chile Pick: At the start of the World Cup, I was convinced Chile would beat the Netherlands and knock them out of the Group, but then again I was also convinced Spain would have a real effort at defending the crown they earned four years ago.

This game is still a 'live' one as both teams can top the Group with a win, while the Netherlands have the bonus of being able to finish top with a draw thanks to a superior goal difference. The prize? It is likely going to be avoiding Brazil in the Second Round, although the hosts play later on Monday evening and can 'pick' who they would like to face at the next stage.

That has infuriated Louis Van Gaal, who claims FIFA have an agenda to give Brazil the best possible preparation to win the World Cup, and the next Manchester United manager will also be missing Manchester United's best striker in Robin Van Persie for the game through suspension.

Neither team is capable of sitting back and both will feel topping the Group is their best opportunity of progressing at the tournament as they can avoid Brazil and potentially get into the weaker section of the remainder of the tournament. With the way the tournament is shaping up, the Group B winner could potentially play Mexico/Croatia in the Second Round and Costa Rica/Ivory Coast in the Quarter Finals which I think is a real incentive to top the section.

The onus is on Chile to attack if they want to win the Group, but that might leave them vulnerable to the counter-attack, although I do think Chile can have success against this Dutch defence. The first goal is going to be critical, but I do believe Chile can get that and win this game.

GROUP B PICKS: Spain @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units) versus Holland
Chile - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (4 Units) versus Australia
Holland - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Pinnacle (3 Units) versus Australia
Spain Win and Both Teams to Score @ 3.20 Ladbrokes (1 Unit) versus Chile
Australia-Spain Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.50 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Chile @ 2.80 Ladbrokes (1 Unit) versus Holland

Group B Update: 1-5, - 4.40 Units (12 Units Staked, - 36.67% Yield)

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