Classy Spain outshine Australia in Curitiba

2014 World Cup- Group B- Match 34
Spain 3 Villa 36’, Torres 69’, Mata 82’
Australia 0

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Australia’s 2014 World Cup campaign has come to an end this morning with a 3-0 defeat to outgoing World Champions Spain in Curitiba. Goals from soon to be Melbourne City striker David Villa, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata ensured the deposed champions leave on a high. For Australia the scoreboard reads 3 losses from 3 games, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story of a team on the rise.

Impressive start:
Australia started much the better side against a Spain side who seemed to be lacking confidence in the early stages, with the Socceroos applying a high defensive press strategy along with quick ball movement keeping the Spaniards on the run. Unfortunately for the Green and Gold it was to come to nothing as young striker Adam Taggart had a tough time upfront on his own against Ramos and Albiol with Australia registering just the one shot in the opening half.

Spain shows up:
After an impressive opening 20 minutes, Australia’s ball movement began to slow slightly and the Spanish quickly capitalised and swung the game in their favour by altering the tempo to suit star playmaker Andres Iniesta and the rest of their side. Early on they peppered McGowan on the right side, but it was down the left where their opening goal came from with Juanfran getting in behind Jason Davidson who picked out Villa in the six yard box and there was only ever going to be one outcome.

Second half:
Australia tried to get a toe-hold in the game in the second half with the substitutions of Halloran and Troisi, but between Spain playing well and poor turnovers from the Socceroos the task proved difficult. Spain went on to ice the game with two late goals, the first of which was scored by Torres after some neat lead-up for on the edge of the box. Juan Mata then rounded out the scoring in the last 10 minutes when he was left free in the box.

Brisbane factor:
Matt McKay got his second start of the tournament and lasted the 90 minutes, while Tommy Oar started again, however he was forced off midway through the second half. Ben Halloran came on at half time while Dario Vidosic remained an unused substitute.

Group B:
Today’s win for Spain sees them finish in third spot in Group B on 3 points, with Australia finishing bottom of the section without a point. Netherlands 2-0 win over Chile in Sao Paolo in the groups other game sees them finish top of the group, with the South Americans finishing in second place thanks to two second half goals from Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay. Netherlands and Chile will now be watching the games later today from Group A to see who they’ll play in the last 16- with Chile likely to end up playing hosts Brazil, while the Netherlands will in all likelihood draw the winner of the Mexico-Croatia match.

Final Group B standings:
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Australia’s World Cup:
Despite today’s disappointing result, and slightly flat performance there will still be a lot to take out of this tournament for Ange Postecoglou and his men as they now eye success in the continental showpiece here in Australia early next year. A young team will be far the better for the experience in the Brazil and will have learned a heck of a lot from some of the greatest players in the world. The much maligned defence still has a bit of work, but they showed signs of being able to form a formidable unit, while the middle and front thirds created plenty of chances in the opening two games.

Up next:
According to the FIFA website, Australia have a friendly in London lined up for September 8th against Saudi Arabia, while will likely be the next hit out and an important step in the preparations for the Asian Cup next year where they will play Kuwait, Oman and Korea Republic in the group stage. They also apparently have friendly against the U.A.E in early October according to the FIFA website.

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2014 World Cup Preview: Game 3- Australia vs. Spain

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After two first up losses for both teams, this game may not have a lot riding on it in the context of the group or the wider tournament, but im sure both teams will be looking to leave Brazil on a positive note. In almost any other scenario, the European and outgoing World Champions would be runaway favourites for this clash in Curitiba, however as this tournament has panned out the scales have evened out slightly.

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Venue: Arena da Baixada (Curitiba)
Capacity: 39,631

Australia:
The Socceroos put in an outstanding performance against the Dutch in Porto Alegre last week however it wasn’t enough as the Dutch came from 2-1 down early in the second half thanks to Robin van Persie and Memphis Depay to book their passage into the last 16. Selection wise Australian goal scoring hero Tim Cahill misses out thanks to two yellow cards, while it’s reported that Mark Milligan and Marco Bresciano will also miss the clash. Ben Halloran is expected to start wide on the right, which would see Matthew Leckie shift into a more central role, with Oliver Bozanic coming into the starting side after an impressive second half cameo. While they’ll still be the firm outsiders going into this one, there’s a growing sense that the Spanish are there for the taking tomorrow, and that Australia have been the better side so far in Brazil so hopefully they take it.

Expected Australian XI: Ryan, McGowan, Wilkinson, Spiranovic, Davidson, Jedinak, McKay, Halloran, Bozanic, Oar, Leckie.

Spain:
It’s been the worst title defence imaginable and im not sure anyone had Spain going home in the group stage, but that’s the situation two poor performances have put Vicente Del Bosque and his men in. The golden era of Spanish dominance or ‘tiki-taka’ appears to be at an end after three major tournaments in a row. In a worrying sign for Del Bosque despite making a raft of changes, his side looked little better against the Chileans, and while he will surely make more tomorrow, the focus is surely already on the inquest into where it all went wrong. Iker Casillas is expected to be dropped for this one, with Pepe Reina likely to get the chance in goals with David De Gea injured in training, while younger players like Juan Mata, and Athletico Madrid’s Koke are expected to start. Who pays the price for such a lacklustre showing is unknown, but here’s my rough guess at it.

Expected Spain XI: Reina, Azpilicueta, Ramos, Martinez, Alba, Busquets, Alonso, Koke, Mata, Iniesta, Villa.

Group B:
The group is rather simple really, Netherlands and Chile will go thru, and play off for top spot and the chance to avoid a likely round of 16 clash with Brazil, with a draw enough for the Dutch given their superior goal difference. Spain and Australia will battle for third, with a draw enough to ensure Postecoglou’s men finish in third. Kick-off is from 2.am on SBS 1, with the other game in the group simultaneously on SBS2.


Sensational Socceroos enterain, fall short against Netherlands

2014 World Cup Group B- Match 18
Netherlands 3 Robben 20’, van Persie 58’, Depay 68’
Australia 2 Cahill 21’, Jedinak 54’ (p.k)

Netherlands have come from 2-1 down to defeat Australia 2-1 in Porto Alegre in their second game of the 2014 World Cup. Despite the assertion of former Socceroos boss Pim Verbeek that Australia would get destroyed by an inform Dutch side, the Socceroos fought and arguably could have come away with at least a point from the game.

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Impressive start:
Australia seemed to suffer from a bit of stage fright in the opening clash against Chile, today however was anything but, with the Socceroos in control of the game from the start. Netherlands started off in a very timid fashion, with their 5-3-2 formation working against them giving them very few options playing out from the back. Despite that impressive opening, the Socceroos however fell behind once again after a swift counter attack saw Arjen Robben open the scoring. The goal came from a poor pass from an otherwise impressive Bresciano which left our defence exposed.

Cahill does it again:
Within seconds however, Australia were level and in truth had the goal they deserved, and what a goal it was. Ryan McGowan played a somewhat speculative 40 yard cross from wide on the right, finding Cahill inside the box, and the Australian talisman scored what will go down as one of the goals of the tournament on the volley. The goal was Cahill’s 5th in World Cup play, and his third in his last three World Cup games. He will be desperately missed in the final group game against Spain next week.

Netherlands respond:
The Dutch, and coach Louis van Gaal aren’t considered amongst the best for nothing, and when defender Bruno Martins Indi was forced from the field injured, van Gaal made an astute tactical change bringing on winger Memphis Depay. The change saw Netherlands change from a 5-3-2 formation to a 4-3-3 formation, and saw Australia make a counter move early in the second half with Bozanic coming on for Bresciano to offer more running in midfield.

Second half goals:
Remarkably, Australia took the lead in the game ten minutes into the second half when Jedinak converted a spot kick after Dutch right back Daryl Janmaat was adjudged to have handled in the box. That lead however lasted barely 5 minutes as sharpshooter Robin van Persie lashed a shot past Matt Ryan. It was an unfortunate time to concede, with Jason Davidson playing him onside. Memphis Depay then went on to beat Ryan with a long range goal from 25 yards proving the difference in the contest.

Brisbane factor:
With Ivan Franjic now back in Brisbane, the torch was passed to Matt McKay and the clubs Australian marquee player played 90 minutes at the heart of the midfield. Ex Brisbane winger Tommy Oar started and played about 77 minutes before being replaced. Halloran also came off the bench for another second half cameo.

Group B:
With two losses, Australia’s hopes of progressing now are slim to none, and they’ll be relying on a bounce back from defending champions Spain in the game currently on to keep their tournament alive. A Chile win or a draw eliminates Australia and puts Chile in the box seat to progress, a Spain win makes second spot a 3 way fight on the final matchday in group B.

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2014 World Cup Preview: Game 2- Australia vs. Netherlands

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After Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Chile in Cuiaba, Australia’s –albeit minimal- hopes of progressing to the last 16 go on the line tomorrow morning in Porto Alegre in their second game against the Netherlands. The Dutch romped home against Spain on the weekend, however it’s unlikely the score will be some one sided this time around. Despite being the massive underdog and suffering injury doubts, Australia do at least have the weight of history on their side as the Dutch haven’t beaten Australia in the past three meetings between the two sides.

Venue: Estadio Beira-Rio (Porte Alegre)
Capacity: 51,300
Beira_Rio_Stadium

Australia:
The Socceroos have got some injury concerns after their opening round loss to Chile, with Ivan Franjic on his way home from Brazil after sustaining a hamstring injury, while Mark Milligan will also miss the clash. Ryan McGowan is the obvious candidate to replace Franjic in the side, while Oliver Bozanic and James Holland are the likely replacements for Milligan, depending on how the Socceroos want to set up. It’s unlikely there will be any further changes, with the majority of the side who grew into the game in Cuiaba likely to get a second chance to impress. The Australian plan will surely be more of the same from the first game -opening 15mins aside- with crosses from Leckie and Oar aimed at Tim Cahill the expected order of the day.

Likely Australian side: Ryan, McGowan, Wilkinson, Spiranovic, Davidson, Holland, Jedinak, Bresciano, Leckie, Oar, Cahill.

Netherlands:
The Dutch produced the shock of the tournament to date with their first up demolition of defending champions Spain, and with that in mind it’s highly unlikely that Luis van Gaal will make any changes to his starting side. If he were to make a change, it may be to swap Swansea’s Jonathan de Guzman –who picked up a caution in the first game- with Feyenoord’s Jordy Clasie. Outside of that the defence which was solid should remain in tact, while the threat upfront will come from Robben and van Persie who both shone in the opener.

Likely Netherlands side: Cillessen, Janmaat, de Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi, Blind, de Jong, de Guzman, Sneijder, Robben, van Persie.

Group B:
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In Group B’s other match of the day, Spain and Chile play off with the reigning champions fighting to stay alive in the tournament, and you’d say that a win would almost be essential La Roja after their dismal showing in the first game. Reports suggested that David De Gea was likely to get a start at the Maracana, however with his injury in training it’s expected that Iker Casillas will get a reprieve for now at least. They may also look to make a change in the front third, with Diego Costa ineffective in the opener, while at the back Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique looked to be struggling as a pairing.

I have to say that im more confident in Australia getting a result against the Dutch than I was against the Chileans, however the way they picked apart the best side of the past 5 years was rather disconcerting. Hopefully they have a bad day and left their scoring boots in Salvador Kick-off between Australia and the Netherlands from Porto Alegre is at 2.00am on SBS1 with the pre-game show from 1.30am. Spain and Chile will follow from the Maracana from 5.00am.


Gutsy Australia comes up short in Cup opener

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2014 World Cup Group B- Match 4
Chile 3: Sanchez 12’, Valdivia 14’, Bousejour 92’
Australia 1: Cahill 35’

Early nerves:
It was obvious early in the game that the Aussies were extremely nervous to start the game, infact I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Australian side so nervous on the international stage. The passing was off, their was no rhythm in their play and the Chileans capitalised. Given that there were just three players in the XI – Jedinak, Cahill and Bresciano- who had previous World Cup experience that was to be expected.

Chile take early advantage:
If Australia started nervously, the Chileans started with a surge determined to put the Socceroos on the back foot from the off and they quickly set about controlling the play in their typical, powerful, pacy style. Their first goal was a bit of a shambles in truth, and im sure Mat Ryan won’t be trilled about being beaten on his near post by Sanchez. They then doubled there lead barely a minute later when Jorge Valdivia netted a superb second after a defensive mix-up.

St. Tim scores again:
After the goals went in the Australians seemed to settle down into their game plan and begin to gain some ascendancy in the game, while the Chileans early efforts seemed to show, although they still had their moments. The Australian goal came from some good work down the right from Brisbane’s Ivan Franjic, before Timmy did what he’s always done. Four goals in three World Cups now for Australia’s all time top scorer.

Super second half:
Australia seized the initiative late in the first half and in the second they rammed that point home with a dominant and at times scintillating display. Matthew Leckie made a series of terrorizing runs at the Chilean back four, while Cahill and Bresciano had their chances to get Australia something out of the game. Cahill was denied by the Assistant Referee, while Claudio Bravo made a fantastic save to foil Bresciano. They tried to press for the equaliser, but a late Jean Bousejour strike from 25 yards consigned the Socceroos to a first up defeat. There were however superb signs for the future, both long term and in this tournament. One final point- the much maligned – including by me- back four stood up tall today, with Spiranovic and Wilkinson doing a solid job for the most part.

Brisbane factor:
Brisbane’s Ivan Franjic started the game but was subbed early in the second half with a reported hamstring injury. It’s unknown yet what the severity is however there’s a chance his BqDUrV7CQAAIYGBtournament is over. Tommy Oar also started, however had a quiet game and was subbed midway through the second half, replaced by fellow Roar alum Ben Halloran. Matt McKay and Dario Vidosic remained on the bench.

Group B:
After Netherlands comprehensive 5-1 romp against Spain earlier, Australia sit third in Group B and take on the top of the table Dutch in their next game. Chile meanwhile will have the chance to consign the defending champions to an unexpected Group Stage exit.

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World Cup Preview: Game 1- Australia vs. Chile

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* With the World Cup here, I thought id write a brief preview and review of each of Australia’s games in Brazil, the first of which kicks off tomorrow morning at the viewer-friendly time of 8.00.pm.

Venue: Arena Pantanal (Cuiaba)
Capacity: 39,859

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Australia:
Ange has kept everyone guessing in terms of his starting XI, but I think there were some subtle clues over the past week or so – particularly in the Croatia game- that could hint at who may start the game. With so many injuries, the back four seemingly picks itself, with the more experienced –in football terms, not internationals- Alex Wilkinson preferred to the younger Ryan McGowan or Bailey Wright. Marco Bresciano from all reports is fit and ready to play, so expect him to come into the midfield, probably in place of Dario Vidosic which would see Tommy Oar on the left and Matt Leckie on the right.

Probable Australian XI: Ryan, Franjic, Wilkinson, Spiranovic, Davidson, Jedinak, Bresciano, Milligan, Leckie, Oar, Cahill.

Chile:
Much of Chile’s build-up has been surrounding the availability of Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and it was reported today that he had overcome his injury concerns and would take the field. Along with Alexis Sanchez, Vidal is the other outstanding individual in the Chilean side which is strong across the board. In general their style is reported to pressurise from the front and play an aggressive, attacking style which could test the still relatively still untried back four of Australia. It will also however give the potential for Australia to have counter attacking opportunities.
Probable Chilean XI: Bravo (c); Isla, Medel, Jara, Mena; Gutierrez, Aranguiz, Diaz, Valdivia; Sanchez, Vargas.

I haven’t seen a lot of Chile in truth so they’re a bit of an unknown, but they’ve got strong results and a couple of quality players. Many consider this to be Australia’s best shot at getting a result in the tournament –to me it’s the Dutch who we line up better against-, but Australia isn’t without a chance of getting something, albeit a small one.

Kick-off is on SBS1 at approximately 8.00am tomorrow morning, with the pre-game from 7.30. The other group b fixture between Spain and Netherlands kicks off at around 5am with the pre-game from 4.30.


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.