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Spain lost its first game in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa and four years on in Brazil it finds itself in the same mess, with anything other than victory over Chile in the battle of the teams nicknamed La Roja likely to be insufficient for the champion to make the round of 16.
Is Spain’s lengthy reign as the premier international side about to come to an end? One’s answer to that question is yes but not before the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil knockout stage, with one believing that Spain will be too structured and too good for Chile to avoid defeat in Rio de Janeiro.
Spain was a shambles in the second half of its 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B game versus the Netherlands and there is no getting away from it. However, Spain did lead the Netherlands 1-0 and David Silva wasted a golden chance to extend La Roja’s advantage to two goals before the Dutch equalised through Robin van Persie and then went ballistic.
One does not think that Spain has become a basket case on the basis of one madcap match and most people remember that La Roja bounced back from losing its 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa opener to get out of its group and eventually win the final. This Spain squad will not panic because it has been there and done it. Spain will take great mental strength from the events in South Africa four years ago.
One was not overly impressed by Chile in its 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B game. Chile raced to a 2-0 lead before Australia’s remodelled defence had learned each other’s names before conceding an all-too-predictable headed goal and reverting into its shell during a second half in which the Socceroos threatened to snatch a draw until La Roja netted its killer third goal in stoppage time. Chile was poor from the moment that Arturo Vidal left the pitch after 60 minutes and, clearly, La Roja’s most influential player is not 100 per cent fit. Chile needs to be at its best to have any chance against a Spain side that has to win.
Spain and Chile met in a September friendly match and the result was a 2-2 draw but one should not read too much into it. First, the game took place in the Swiss city of Carouge. And second, Spain’s starting line-up was a long way removed from its regular first 11, whereas Chile fielded a team that was considering closer to its usual first-choice collective.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil chance of Spain is on the line and one thinks that the title holder is attractively priced at odds of 1.67 with several bookmakers, including Betfred and Ladbrokes, to beat a Chile side that is its own worst enemy. To put it bluntly, Chile cannot play as aggressively as it did in the first 30 minutes versus Australia and not pay the price against a top team.
Both the Netherlands and Australia were delighted with their first 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil efforts, which says a lot about their respective expectations. A more rounded side than Chile would have wiped the floor with Australia, which made schoolboy errors in defence and only got back into the game because La Roja are terrible in the air. Both Australia defensive midfielders, Mile Jedinak and Mark Milligan, are one yellow card away from sitting out their team’s clash with Spain and it is only natural that these two influential Socceroos players will be thinking about that while they are trying to prevent their Netherlands opponents from scoring.
The Netherlands has not faired well in its recent meetings against Australia – two draws and one loss – but the golden generation of Socceroos has come and gone and the Dutch have their tails up following their 5-1 win over Spain. If the Netherlands get its tactics right – Dutch coach Louis van Gaal could use any number of systems – then Australia may cop the hiding that Chile threatened to hand it.
Australia will be positive because that is the philosophy of Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou so one is not excited about backing the Netherlands to win to nil at odds of 2.00 with Betfred. Of greater appeal are the odds of 1.74 with 888sport that the Netherlands covers a one-goal line.
Finally, Cameroon and Croatia lock horns in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A. Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o tweeted that he is an unlikely starter for the Manaus match that, of course, will take place in oppressive conditions. Cameroon should handle the heat and humidity better than Croatia but Eto’o being out would be a massive blow to the Indomitable Lions. Croatia acquitted itself well versus Brazil but one does not want to back it at short odds given the way that it qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Croatia to win but there are much better value odds-on favourites to back.
Spain to beat Chile
18th June 20:00
Where to Bet: Betfred, Ladbrokes
Netherlands -1 to beat Australia
18th June 17:00
Where to Bet: 888sport
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