Group B World Cup preview

Any successful World Cup campaign can depend on a favourable draw at the first round group stage, as starting off on the right foot and avoiding dangerous teams can be the ideal recipe for success. Each of the thirty-two teams have earned the right to appear at Brazil 2014, and carry a certain element of quality which may stand them in good stead to make their country proud. The theoretical belief that there is no such thing as an easy game in the world of football may be perfectly illustrated by the four teams who make up an absolute cracker of a World Cup group that could produce fireworks for the neutrals to savour. Group B will feature the reigning World Cup and European champions, the creators of ‘Total Football’, a dangerous up-and-coming South American side packed with pace and creativity, and one of the most successful nations from Asia who should not be underestimated. Football punters may require invaluable world cup 2014 betting tips to make head or tail of one of the strongest World Cup groups in modern history, with Group B poised to provide six wonderful games of football.


After so many years of showing real potential to blossom into a dominant and successful international side, Spain have finally rose to prominence – and have done so in imperious style. Winning the last three major tournaments perfectly demonstrates why the current Spain squad is highly regarded as one of the best ever international sides in world football. It is well within their capabilities to become the third nation in history to win back-to-back World Cup tournaments, in addition to setting a new record as the only side to lift four consecutive major trophies, but they are only backed as fourth favourites for Brazil 2014 at 7/1.

Despite being in imperious form throughout a qualifying group which included France via their wonderful tiki-taka style of football, there may be an underlying reason why Spain are not considered favourites. Vincente Del Bosque has a vast array of world class players to choose from in every department, but may face a selection headache in attack. David Villa and Fernando Torres may have superb international scoring records, but none of their recognised strikers have found any sort of form or consistency in front of goal for their respective clubs. Diego Costa, who has recently registered to play for Spain despite being born in Brazil, is the only striker Del Bosque could trust to lead the line, although his relative inexperience at international level could count against them.


‘Always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ is a phrase which perfectly applies to the Netherlands at World Cup tournaments. The ‘Oranje’ hold an unwanted record as the nation who have played in the most World Cup finals without ever winning one. This reflects an inability to turn huge potential into success, particularly during the 1970s which was a golden era for the Netherlands who produced some of the greatest international sides in world football. The class of 2014 arguably do not possess the same quality, but do have an intriguing balance with a number of top young prospect alongside experienced heads. Domestic clubs continue to power a never-ending conveyor belt of talent emerging from famed youth academies across the country, although Louis Van Gaal holds high hopes that the 23 players he selects for Brazil 2014 will right the wrongs of Euro 2012 and repeat the performance in South Africa 2010 whey they finished runners-up to Spain – their opening Group B opponents. Netherlands are 13/5 to gain revenge, but are ranked amongst the dark horses to win the World Cup at 33/1.


The considerable humidity and heat levels that are predicted throughout Brazil 2014 are widely predicted to favour the South American nations who do not have to acclimatise to play in these conditions. While Brazil and Argentina remain the leading lights of the continent, Chile have emerged as a potential dark horse to win the World Cup at 33/1. Although they have never won a major international tournament, the current crop of players have created great hope and excitement across the country who believe Chile can compete against the major international side. Their belief is fully justified through superb performances throughout the South American qualifying campaign and friendlies against higher placed teams in the world rankings; 2-2 draws away in Brazil and Spain were topped by a convincing victory over England at Wembley in 2013, and while they lost 1-0 to Germany in March, they won plaudits for the quality of football they displayed in Stuttgart.

The secret to Chile’s rise to prominence is their dedication to playing fast-paced attacking, free-flowing football within every game which has made Jorge Sampaoli’s side highly appealing on the eye. It is a system that appears to be paying dividends through an impressive scoring rate, although Chile have also established a defensive stability that can compete against the very best.


The Socceroos could be forgiven for believing they face a baptism of fire at Brazil 2014 after being drawn in an extremely strong group packed with pedigree and quality. Australia will always play with pride and commitment, but it may prove an impossible task to qualify from Group B. Preparation for the World Cup has not been ideal, with Holger Osieck being sacked following consecutive 6-0 defeats in friendly matches against France and Brazil, despite being the man who led Australia to the World Cup. New manager Ange Postecoglou faces a challenge to restore pride in the Australia national team, with poor performances during the qualifying campaign adding more cause for concern that they may become the Group B whipping boys. Much will depend on their opening fixture against Chile, in which Australia are already rated as rank outsiders to win at 5/1; a shock victory could provide great hope that Australia could match their best ever World Cup performance and reach the second round.

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World Baseball Classic needs format changes to become a global event

Entrepreneurs have said that timing is a key ingredient for making a good idea into a successful business venture. Major League Baseball has failed to read its own marketplace in regards to the World Baseball Classic. It is just bad timing to play this tournament at the beginning of spring training.

Commissioner Bud Selig has said that March is the only realistic time of the year to play the WBC. I disagree with him. This tournament needs to be moved to the middle of the summer if the WBC is going to become baseball’s premier global event. If not, then do not expect crisp, memorable games from athletes not yet in game shape.

The United States’ three-run come-from-behind victory over Puerto Rico last Tuesday night should have been the top story the next morning. Instead, the outcome was scrolled underneath a highlight package of a NIT opening round game or copy filler in your local newspaper.


Well, sport fans are not watching or paying attention to the WBC. No, they’re preoccupied with the NCAA tournament that has firmly established itself as a the major sporting event for this time of the year.

Fans cannot get excited about the WBC if the best players in baseball are not playing in the event. And the ones that are playing, many of them are not ready to compete at a world-class level. Where’s Tim Lincecum or Roy Halladay? They should be anchoring the United States pitching staff in this competition. Team USA should not be relying on the arms of Jeremy Guthrie or Ted Lilly in an elimination game.

Do you think the Netherlands would have defeated the Dominican Republic twice in a competition if they were playing at mid-season? And wouldn’t it be great to see Johan Santana of Venezuela trading strikes with Japan’s Dice-K for all the world to watch. This could happen if the WBC is played every two years in place of the All-Star Game in July. How about a single elimination format, with the finals to be played on Sunday evening in front of a prime time audience? No other sporting event would be competing with baseball for the almighty TV ratings.

Baseball owners might not have any interest in giving up a week’s worth of revenue during the high point of their year, and the idea of scrapping the All-Star game every two years might be enough to give the baseball purist a heart attack, but some playoff contenders might welcome a week off to catch their breath for the second half of the baseball season.

Changes need to take place to make the WBC a world event. Right now, this tournament is nothing more than glorified spring training contest.

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