World Cup guide: Group B
World Cup guide: Group B
Our World Cup countdown continues with our look at one of the toughest groups - B - which includes holders Spain.
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It's the second of our team-by-team features which have a betting flavour and aim to uncover some stats which will help you with your World Cup punting.
Group A is already available.
Groups C & D will take centre stage on Wednesday, E & F on Thursday and G & H on Friday.
Our betting previews won't stop there.
Next week we'll have previews of all the major markets with our outright tournament preview being published on Monday, our Golden Boot verdict the following day.
The specials markets will be assessed next Wednesday with some England-flavoured bets coming your way on Thursday - the day the tournament gets under way.
So make sure you stay logged on to sportinglife.com for all this and more ahead of sporting event of the year!
Outright odds (with Sky Bet): To win group: 8/11
To qualify: 1/7
Full squad: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool), David De Gea (Manchester United), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Xavi (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Manchester United), David Silva (Manchester City), Pedro (Barcelona), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), David Villa (Atletico Madrid), Fernando Torres (Chelsea).
Manager: Vicente del Bosque
World Cup record: Winners (2010), fourth (1950)
How they qualified (most recent first): Spain head to Brazil as the defending champions who, these days, have to qualify. They were unbeaten in their group, one which also contained France, topping it with six wins and two draws.
v Georgia (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Negredo 26, Mata 61
v Belarus (home) 2-1 (HT 0-0) Xavi 61, Negredo 78
v Finland (away) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Alba 19, Negredo 86
v France (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Pedro 58
v Finland (home) 1-1 (0-0) Sergio Ramos 49
v France (home) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Sergio Ramos 25
v Belarus (away) 4-0 (HT 2-0) Alba 12, Pedro 21, 69, 79
v Georgia (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Soldado 86
Goalscorers: Pedro was Spain's top scorer in qualifying with just four which included a hat-trick against Belarus - the only time the Spanish really well went town. Manchester City's Alvaro Negredo weighed in with a goal in each of the last three fixtures.
Half-time/full-time: Spain never trailed at any stage during their qualifying campaign and twice let winning positions slip late in the games against France and Finland in a pair of 1-1 draws - the only points they dropped. Three of Spain's six wins in qualifying had them ahead at the break.
Clean sheets: Spain conceded just three goals in eight games and managed to keep five clean sheets.
Win to nil: Five of their six wins were to nil - 83 per cent. They included the toughest game of the qualifying phase, away to France.
Cards: The Spanish were well behaved as they received just five cautions from their eight games.
Other competitive internationals (most recent first): Spain played in last summer's Confederations Cup in Brazil but were well beaten in the final by Brazil - a result which had a major impact on the World Cup betting market, with the hosts becoming clear favourites in the process.
v Brazil (neutral) 0-3 (HT 0-2)
v Italy (neutral) 0-0 (7-6 pens) (HT 0-0)
v Nigeria (neutral) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Alba 3, 88, Torres 62
v Tahiti (neutral) 10-0 (HT 4-0) Torres 5, 33, 57, 78 Silva 31, 89, Villa 39, 49, 64 Mata 66
v Uruguay (neutral) 2-1 (HT 2-0) Pedro 20 Soldado 32
Build-up: A shock defeat in South Africa was put behind them with victory over Italy back in March but still the goals have not been flowing as easily as they once did.
v Bolivia (home) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Torres 51p, Iniesta 84v Italy (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Pedro 63
v South Africa (away) 0-1 (HT 0-0)
v Equatorial Guinea (away) 2-1 (HT 2-1) Cazorla 14, Juanfran 42
Team verdict: It is a little harsh to be critical of a nation that is the reigning world and dual European champions but they did not get things all their own way in qualification.
A couple of draws meant they may have even had to stoop to the play-offs but a true show of class in Paris to beat France highlighted what a superb team the Spanish remain.
The bottom line is that they still possess the best squad in the tournament and worries over the form and fitness of playmakers Xavi and Andres Iniesta have perhaps been overplayed.
More of a concern will be the availability of striker Diego Costa, who ended a tremendous season with Atletico Madrid on the injured list with a hamstring problem. He has been named in the final 23-man squad but his fitness remains a worry.
David John "This could be the last hurrah for a number of players from this stellar generation of Spanish footballers and they will not relinquish their crown without a fight under the wily Del Bosque."
Best bet (with Sky Bet: I would certainly be keen on going low on Diego Costa's total goals but he looks a real doubt at the moment to even make it to the tournament. So a small interest on a Spain/Chile dual forecast (those two being the top two in any order) for the group at 11/8 could have some mileage.
Back Spain to win the World Cup at 6/1!
Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 28/1
To win group: 11/4
To qualify: 8/13
Full squad: Jasper Cillessen (Ajax), Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Michel Vorm (Swansea City) Daley Blind (Ajax), Stefan de Vrij (Feyenoord), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord), Terence Kongolo (Feyenoord), Bruno Martins Indi (Feyenoord), Paul Verhaegh (Augsburg), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa), Joel Veltman (Ajax), Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord Rotterdam), Jonathan de Guzman (Swansea City), Nigel de Jong (AC Milan), Leroy Fer (Norwich City), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray), Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven), Memphis Depay (PSV Eindhoven), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke), Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbahce), Jeremain Lens (Dynamo Kiev), Robin van Persie (Manchester United)
Manager: Louis van Gaal
World Cup record: Runners-up three times (1974, 1978, 2010)
How they qualified: Easy winners of UEFA Group D, collecting 28 out of a possible 30 points and banging in goals left, right and centre.
v Turkey (away) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Robben 8, Sneijder 47
v Hungary (home) 8-1 (HT 4-0) van Persie 16, 44, 53, Strootman 25, Lens 38, van der Vaart 86, Robben 90, own goal)
v Andorra (away) 2-0 (HT 0-0) van Persie 50, 54
v Estonia (away) 2-2 (HT 1-1) Robben 2, van Persie 90+4)
v Romania (home) 4-0 (HT 1-0) van der Vaart 12, van Persie 56, 65, Lens 90)
v Estonia (home) 3-0 (HT 0-0) van der Vaart 47, van Persie 72, Schaken 84)
v Romania (away) 4-1 (HT 3-1) Lens 9, Martins 29, van der Vaart 45+1p, van Persie 86
v Andorra (home) 3-0 (HT 2-0) van der Vaart 7, Huntelaar 15, Schaken 50
v Hungary (away) 4-1 (HT 2-1) Lens 3, 53, Martins 19, Huntelaar 75
v Turkey (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) van Persie 17, Narsingh 90+3
Goalscorers: Robin van Persie led the way with 11 goals in qualifying, the most in all the European qualifying groups. Their team tally of 34 from 10 games was only bettered by the 36 netted by Germany.
Half-time/full-time: The Dutch never trailed at half-time in any of their 10 qualifiers and were ahead in seven of those games.
Clean sheets: The Netherlands' strongest feature is undoubtedly an attack which contains RVP, Arjen Robben and Jeremaine Lens but the defence managed to keep six clean sheets on the way to Brazil. Not bad for a work in progress which used five keepers during the campaign.
Win to nil: All six clean sheets they kept throughout qualification led to victories, while the only time they conceded more than once in a game still led to a point in a 2-2 stalemate in Estonia.
Cards: The Dutch failed to go through qualification without seeing a card being brandished and racked up 20 yellows from 10 games but no reds.
Other competitive internationals: None since a miserable group-stage exit at Euro 2012.
Build-up (most recent first): Results since qualification have been patchy with a 2-0 defeat in Paris notable. Did beat fellow qualifiers Ghana last week to end their recent win drought.
v Ghana (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) van Persie 5
v Ecuador (home) 1-1 (HT 1-1) van Persie 37
v France (away) 0-2 (HT 0-2)
v Colombia (home) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Japan (neutral) 2-2 (HT 2-1) van der Vaart 12, Robben 39
Team verdict: This will be a fascinating swansong for Louis van Gaal at the helm for the Dutch national side ahead of taking over at Manchester United.
He has shuffled his personnel with players from the Eredivisie given a chance to shine but a youthful look in a number of areas means that van Gaal's tactical acumen is going to be vital if his team are going to make any sort of long-term impact.
Repeating their successful tournament from four years ago looks like a big ask though with perhaps not enough overall depth through the side to go with the undoubted star quality of Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.
David John "They will have to be on their game from the get-go with a rematch of the 2010 final against Spain first up and defeat in that game could mean curtains with a dangerous Chile side no pushovers."
The only consistent thing with Holland in major tournaments is their inconsistency and a repeat of their 2010 heroics seems unlikely.
Best bet (with Sky Bet: I think the lack of depth in the Dutch side could come back to haunt them despite all van Gaal's experience and 5/4 on them not to qualify from the group seems reasonable.
All of Sky Bet's World Cup Group B specials!
Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 50/1
To win group: 4/1
To qualify: 5/6
Full squad: Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile), Cristopher Toselli (Universidad Catolica), Gary Medel (Cardiff City), Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest), Jose Rojas (Universidad de Chile), Eugenio Mena (Santos), Mauricio Isla (Juventus), Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras), Felipe Gutierrez (Twente), Jose Pedro Fuenzalida (Colo Colo), Francisco Silva (Osasuna), Arturo Vidal (Juventus), Charles Aranguiz (Internacional), Marcelo Diaz (Basel), Carlos Carmona (Atalanta), Miiko Albornoz (Malmo), Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona), Esteban Paredes (Colo Colo), Eduardo Vargas (Valencia), Jean Beausejour (Wigan Athletic), Mauricio Pinilla (Cagliari), Fabian Orellana (Celta).
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
World Cup record: Third (1962, as hosts), round of 16 (1998, 2010)
How they qualified (most recent first): Qualified for successive World Cups for the first time in their history (they did play in 1962 and 1966 but as hosts in the former tournament) in third place behind Argentina and Colombia. Scored 29 goals in their 16 fixtures but also conceded 25.
v Ecuador (home) 2-1 (HT 2-0) Sanchez 33, Medel 37
v Colombia (away) 3-3 (HT 3-0) Vidal 18p, Sanchez 21, 29
v Venezuela (home) 3-0 (HT 2-0) Vargas 10, Gonzalez 29, Vidal 85
v Bolivia (home) 3-1 (HT 2-1) Vargas 16, Sanchez 17, Vidal 90+2
v Paraguay (away) 2-1 (HT 1-0) Vargas 41, Vidal 56
v Uruguay (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Parades 10, Vargas 77
v Peru (away) 0-1 (0-0)
v Argentina (home) 1-2 (HT 0-2) Gutierrez 90+1
v Ecuador (away) 1-3 (HT 1-1) OG 25
v Colombia (home) 1-3 (HT 1-0) Fernandez 41
v Venezuela (away) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Fernandez 85, Aranguiz 90+1)
v Bolivia (away) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Aranguiz 45+2, Vidal 83)
v Paraguay (home) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Contreras 28, Campos 86
v Uruguay (away) 0-4 (HT 0-2)
v Peru (home) 4-2 (HT 2-0) Ponce 2, Vargas 18, Medel 48, Suazo 63p)
v Argentina (away) 1-4 (HT 0-2) Fernandez 57
Goalscorers: The big names came to the fore during qualifying with Eduardo Vargas and Arturo Vidal on target five times while Alexis Sanchez scored four.
Half-time/full-time: Chile have the look of a side who like to start fast with an attacking dynamic, attacking approach. This was borne out to some extent in qualifying with the majority of their goals coming prior to the break. Eight of their nine wins had them ahead at the interval.
Clean sheets: Chile kept just five clean sheets during their arduous qualifying process which involved a total of 16 games.
Win to nil: Chile won all five games where the opposition failed to score.
Cards: Chile's disciplinary problems surfaced again in qualifying with two straight red cards being picked up, plus 33 bookings.
Other competitive internationals: None. The last Copa America was back in 2011.
Build-up (most recent first): A famous win at Wembley back in November was immediately followed by a narrow defeat to Brazil. Germany also edged out the Chileans, who needed to come back from two down to beat Egypt ahead of the tournament.
v Egypt (home) 3-2 (HT 1-2) Diaz 26, Vargas 60, 78
v Germany (away) 0-1 (HT 0-1)
v Costa Rica (home) 4-0 (HT 1-0) Albornoz 13, Hernandez 51, 54, Munoz 79
v Brazil (away) 1-2 (HT 0-1) Vargas 71
v England (away) 2-0 (HT 1-0) Sanchez 7, 90
Team verdict: Chile certainly have something about them this year and can be considered one of the dark horses for a tournament staged on their own continent.
Their form dipped during qualification but officials moved swiftly to install Jorge Sampaoli, who has built a team that thrives going forward and will be pleasing on the eye.
The fact they come up against Spain and the Netherlands should give them a chance to fly under the radar somewhat with a little less expectation and that ability to attack and create chances at pace is enough to give any defence at this tournament palpitations.
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is optimistic about their prospects despite tackling a group that contains the finalists from four years ago and a victory over Australia in the opener would give them plenty of confidence to build on.
If they do emerge and enter the knockout phase, they will be high on the list of rivals the more-fancied sides will not want to face.
Best bet (with Sky Bet: Chile to qualify from Group B at 5/6.
Back Chile to win the World Cup at 50/1!
Outright odds (with Sky Bet): 2500/1
To win group: 33/1
To qualify: 11/1
Full squad: Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng Taishan), Matthew Spiranovic (Western Sydney Wanderers), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Bailey Wright (Preston North End), Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), James Holland (Austria Vienna), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Matthew McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tommy Oar (Utrecht), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Dario Vidosic (Sion), Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Matthew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt 1899), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets).
Manager: Ange Postecoglou
World Cup record: Last 16 (2006), eliminated in group stage (1974, 2010)
How they qualified (most recent first): Won five of their six matches in AFC third round Group D before finishing runners-up to Japan in Group B of the fourth round.
v Iraq (home) 1-0 (0-0) Kennedy 83
v Jordan (home) 4-0 (1-0) Bresciano 16, Cahill 61, Kruse 76, Neill 84
v Japan (away) 1-1 (0-0) Oar 82
v Oman (home) 2-2 (0-1) Cahill 52, Holman 85
v Iraq (away) 2-1 (0-0) Cahill 80 Thompson 84
v Jordan (away) 1-2 (0-0) Thompson 85
v Japan (home) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Wilkshire 69
v Oman (away) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Saudi Arabia (home) 4-2 (HT 1-2) Brosque 43, 75, Kewell 73, Emerton 76
v Thailand (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Holman 78
v Oman (away) 0-1 (HT 0-1)
v Oman (home) 3-0 (HT 1-0) Holman 7, Kennedy 65, Jedinak 85
v Saudi Arabia (away) 3-1 (HT 1-0) Kennedy 40, 56, Wilkshire 77
v Thailand (home) 2-1 (HT 0-1) Kennedy 58, Brosque 85
Goalscorers: Josh Kennedy led the way with five goals in just six appearances. Tim Cahill, Brett Holman and Alex Brosque all scored three.
Half-time/full-time: Australia led at half-time in just three of their 14 games but went on to win on all three occasions.
Clean sheets: Australia kept five clean sheets in 14 matches at just under 36 per cent.
Win to nil: Four of Australia's seven wins were to nil.
Cards: Australia's 14 games produced 21 cards in total, counting the sole red as two. That's an average of 1.5 per game.
Other competitive internationals (most recent first): Australia qualified for the East Asian Cup finals by winning their qualifying group in Hong Kong at the end of 2012 but finished last of the four teams at the tournament itself when it was held in South Korea last July. Australia have been excused qualifying for next year's Asian Cup, as they are hosting the event.
v China (neutral) 3-4 (HT 1-1) Mooy 30, Taggart 89, Duke 90)
v Japan (neutral) 2-3 (HT 1-0) Duke 75, Juric 78
v South Korea (away) 0-0 (HT 0-0)
v Chinese Taipei (neutral) 8-0 (HT 5-0) Garcia 11, Cornthwaite 17, Taggart 19, 29, 32, Mooy 47, Behich 57, Chao-hsun (OG) 82
v Guam (neutral) 9-0 (HT 3-0) Mooy 12, Babalj 20, 56, Marrone 43, Thompson 59, 62, 65, Millingan 71, Garcia 83
v North Korea (neutral) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Thompson 4
v Hong Kong (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Emerton 85
Build-up (most recent first): Since qualifying for the World Cup, Australia have kept busy. They lost 6-0 to both France and Brazil. More recently they've blown a 3-0 lead against Ecuador and drawn with South Africa.
v South Africa (home) 1-1 (HT 1-1) Cahill 14
v Ecuador (neutral) 3-4 (HT 3-0) Cahill 8, 32, Jedinak 15
v Costa Rica (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Cahill 69
v Canada (away) 3-0 (HT (1-0) Kennedy 1, Vidosic 52, Leckie 78
v France (away) 0-6 (HT 0-4)
v Brazil (away) 0-6 (0-3)
Team verdict: Expectations for Australia are extremely low, and it would go down as one of the biggest shocks in the tournament's history were they to get out of a group which includes the Netherlands and Spain.
First up is a clash with Chile and it's one they're odds-on to lose; the hope for spectators and those inside the Socceroos camp is that they can somehow manage a draw here and hold themselves with credit in the games they will almost certainly lose.
What's interesting about teams like Australia is that the World Cup isn't their priority - a comment you could very rarely apply to any team at the summer spectacular. The fact of the matter is, though, that Australia are planning for the Asian Cup which they are hosting and the current rebuilding process going on is one which will take time.
Josh Kennedy - nicknamed Jesus for his long hair which has long since gone - is Australia's most obvious goal threat. Those who watched Australia take on Canada at Craven Cottage last year will be aware of his eye for goal and he even scored against Holland in 2008, albeit in a friendly. Tim Cahill is priced as the favourite in the top Australia goalscorer market and his threat is one Premier League fans know well; but Kennedy could be the better value.
Best bet (with Sky Bet: Australia to score zero points at 11/8 - essentially this looks like 11/8 about Chile beating Australia, because both Holland and Spain will realise the importance of seeing off vastly inferior opposition in an otherwise competitive group.
Check out all of Sky Bet's Australia specials!
GROUP VERDICT (DJ)
After reaching the highest of peaks, Spain may now be on the downhill track but I don't envisage them bowing out early in what is one of the tougher groups.
With Australia looking like group whipping-boys - myself and Ben are certainly agreed on that - it's the other qualification spot which looks most interesting.
The attack-minded Chile can pip the 2010 runners-up to that and 11/8 about the Dutch failing to qualify is a tempting bet.
The Oranje appear to lack depth and Chile have the attacking talent to make them pay.
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