Socceroos learn nasty 2014 fate

Im sure everyone has seen the World Cup draw by now, and what a group it is! Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou says ‘there’s going to be some good football in our group, and we want to play our part in it’, but there’s no beating around the bush. It’s a tough group. Arguably the toughest we could have got. Here’s a little fact file on the three nations Australia will face in Brazil, not that they need any introduction.

Could it be any tougher?

Could it be any tougher?

Spain: 200px-Spain_National_Football_Team_badge
Ranking:
1
World Cup Appearances: 14th
2010: Winners

When do we play:
Australia vs. Spain
24th June 2014 (2am Australian time)
Arena da Baixada (Curitiba)

Previous meetings:
This will be the first time the sides have met at full international level.

World Cup Pedigree:
What more needs to be said other than they’re going to Brazil as the defending champions. Prior to that they perhaps underachieved with a 2nd round exit in 06, a quarter final loss to host Korea Republic in 2002 and a group stage exit in 1998. All up this is the 14th World Cup appearance for Spain, who hosted the World Cup in 1982.

Manager: Vincente Del Bosque.
The 62 year old is Spain’s greatest manager having had considerable success as both a club and national team boss. Del Bosque, a Los Merengues player in his career, progressed through the coaching ranks at the club to lead the star studded Real Madrid side to two La Liga triumphs at the turn of the century, along with two champions league titles. A brief sojourn into Turkish football with Beskitas followed before he took over the Spanish National Team job in 2008. Since then he’s enjoyed a dream run leading the team to a World Cup triumph in 2010, and a successful defence of their European crown in 2012.

Key Players:
Where do you start? The threats are endless and all over the park here really. In goals they can choose from any of Casillas (Real Madrid, and captain), Pepe Reina (Napoli), David De Gea (Manchester United) or Victor Valdes (Barcelona). The defence is likely to consist of Barcelona stars Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Carles Puyol, along with Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and Alvaro Arbeloa. Throw in Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea and Nacho Monreal of Arsenal and they’ve got more than enough options.

Midfield however is where this side really flourishes however. How’s this for a selection. Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Cazorla, Busquets, Mata, Alonso, Navas, Martinez, Koke, Silva, Alcantara and Javi Garcia. If that’s not enough firepower, they’ve also got Torres, Pedro, Villa, Negredo, Saldado and Michu to throw at teams upfront. They’re loaded with elite talent, but you knew that already.


Potential Weaknesses:

Im nit-picking here I admit, but the defence is aging and hasn’t been as great as it has been in recent times with Puyol and Pique, but there’s a very real chance Puyol wont be a starter in Brazil anyway (+ who are we to nitpick at miniscule problems like this given our defence). Complacency could be an issue given they’ve won 3 tournaments in a row, however the 3-0 loss to Brazil they copped in July at the Confederations Cup stung them. The only other potential weakness is squad harmony, which has hurt them in the past with Madrid-Barcelona divide in the camp. Those days seem behind them however.

Netherlands: 150px-Royal_Netherlands_Football_Association_Logo_svg
Ranking: 8
World Cup Appearances: 9th
2010: Runners up.

When do we play:
Australia vs. Netherlands
19th June 2014 (2am Australian time)
Estádio José Pinheiro Borda (Porto Alegre)

Previous meetings:
Just going back as to 2006, Australia have met the Dutch on three occasions and haven’t lost any one those (1 win, 2 draws) including a famous win in Eindhoven in 2008. Having said that, all 3 of those were friendlies, and this will be something totally different.

World Cup Pedigree:
Big-time pedigree. The Oranje have been runners up on 3 occasions (1974, 1978, 2010) and also made the semi-finals of 1998. They did however miss the World Cup as recently as 2002. Perhaps surprisingly the Dutch have only been to 10 of the 20 World Cups contested, but they are the best nation never to win a World Cup.

Manager: Luis van Gaal
Another vastly experienced manager, van Gaal has coached the Netherlands twice now, as well as club stints at Ajax, Barcelona (twice) and Bayern Munich amongst others. All up he’s won the Eredivise in 2009 with Alkmaar, La Liga on two occasions, and the Bundesliga in 2009. In addition to that van Gall was manager of one of the greatest Ajax side of all time that won 3 straight Eredivise titles in the mid 90’s along with the 94-95 Champions League.

Key Players:
It starts upfront for the Dutch, with Manchester United sniper Robin van Persie the star turn of this Dutch side. Should RVP fail to fire, they’ve also got Klaas-Jan Huntelaar waiting in the wings, along with a plethora of wingers that could include Arjen Robben. The midfield will be bossed once again by Nigel De Jong, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van der Vaart along with Kevin Strootman. In goals they’ve got Fulham’s Maarten Stekelenberg or Newcastle United’s Tim Krul, while the backline will be marshalled by Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar and PSG’s Gregory van der Wiel.

Potential Weaknesses:
Again, were splitting hairs here, but the backline looks a tad susceptible to me. Van der Wiel is one of the world’s best right backs, and while Vlaar is a solid defender there’s some doubt about who will partner him. The left back slot is also a potential weakness for the Dutch with Jetro Willens and Patrick van Aanholt fighting it out, however neither have established themselves as of yet. The Dutch will be fantastic going forward once again in 2014 as they always are, the question is over their ability to keep them out at the other end.

Chile: 200px-Logo_Federación_de_Fútbol_de_Chile
Ranking: 12
World Cup Appearances: 8th
2010: Quarter Finals

When do we play:
Australia vs. Chile
14th June 2014 (8am Australian time)
Arena Pantanal (Cuiaba)

Previous meetings:
Australia and Chile have met in a World Cup before, having played out a 0-0 draw with the South Americans back in 1974. Australia’s most recent meeting with the Chileans took place back in 2000 when Australia travelled to Chile and lost 2-1.

World Cup Pedigree:
It’s pretty good. They offcourse made the quarter finals of the 2010 edition losing out to Spain, which is their best overall result in recent times. They missed the 2002 and 2006 editions but they did make the last 16 in 1998 and also finished 3rd when they hosted the tournament back in 1962. They appear to be on track to a strong showing this time around as well, comfortably qualifying through the difficult South American stage behind only Argentina and Colombia.

Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
53 year old Sampaoli has managed the Chilean side and he guided them successfully through the toughest qualification route there is. He’s followed on the philosophy of former manager Marcelo Bielsa’ and kept the side playing a strong attacking style of football. Prior to taking the national team job, the Argentine native lead Universidad de Chile to the Copa Sudamericana in 2011.

Key Players:
They don’t have the same star power as Netherlands or Spain, but they do have talisman Alexis Sanchez of Barcelona upfront to call upon. In addition to Alexis, they’ve also got Manchester United youngster Angelo Henriquez (on loan at Real Zaragoza) and Humberto Suazo (Monterrey) to call upon should a goal be necessary. The midfield area will be marshalled by Arturo Vidal (Juventus), David Pizzaro (Fiorentina), Mathaias Fernandez (Fiorentina- formerly of Everton and Valencia), Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras) and Carlos Carmona (Atalanta). They’ve also got versatile Wigan wide man Jean Bousejour at their disposal. In terms of defenders they’ve got their captain and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad), Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forrest), Mauricio Isla (Juventus) and Gary Medel (Cardiff City) amongst others to choose from.

Potential Weaknesses:
Again, it’s difficult because they appear to have strength all across the park, however if there’s one area there could be a weakness it’s at the back. Isla and Medel are quality players, but Isla is a fullback, and Medel is perhaps more comfortable in midfield –not that Chile need him in there-. They also appear to be slightly weak in the wider areas, but again it’s splitting hairs and this side is well equipped to progress to the knockout stages.

The draw itself delivered what it promised- chaos. Having nations like Switzerland, Belgium and Colombia seeded (two of which haven’t featured in a World Cup since 2002 and 1998) ahead of nations like Italy, France, Netherlands, England and Portugal was always going to provide some tasty match-ups, but this is the most stacked group stage I can remember. There’s some great groups to watch (B, D, G) and also some incredibly weak ones (C, E, F, H). That was unavoidable however in the circumstances.

Full draw.

Full draw.

So now we know who is playing who, and despite it being an incredibly tough group, there promises to at the very least be some good football on show in our group. The group also provides an opportunity for current and former Brisbane stars Matt McKay, Ivan Franjic, Jade North, Tommy Oar, Dario Vidosic, Adam Sarota, Michael Zullo and perhaps others to test themselves against the very best. We’ll be providing semi-regular updates in the lead up to the World Cup, hopefully we can go to Brazil and surprise a few people.

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