Chile drawn in World Cup ‘Group of Death’

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Published On : Fri, Dec 6th, 2013

Brazil’s 2014 World Cup draw unkind to Chile — ‘La Roja’ pitted against reigning world champion Spain and European heavyweights the Netherlands.

Tim Cahill, Andrés Iniesta and Arjen Robben are among the world-class players Chile will face in the 2014 World Cup. Photo via ANFP

Tim Cahill, Andrés Iniesta and Arjen Robben are among the world-class players Chile will face in the 2014 World Cup. Photo via ANFP

Chile has a mountain to climb in the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup after drawing Friday both Spain and the Netherlands — the respective winner and runner up of the 2010 tournament — in what many have already dubbed the “Group of Death.”

There is some respite though, as “La Roja’s” first game will be against an unfancied Australian team at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá.

Chile’s brand of fluid, attacking football surprised many during qualification for Brazil’s 2014 World Cup and after finishing third in the South American group following a 2-1 win over Ecuador — the team’s stock has risen.

Spain, winner of the 2010 World Cup and two previous European Championships, is seeded second behind Brazil while the Netherlands occupies eighth place in the FIFA world rankings after topping Group D in qualifying, winning nine and drawing one.

Chile’s recent record against Spain shows marginal improvement — after losing 2-1 in the 2010 World Cup’s group stages, Chile came agonizingly close to defeating “La Furia” in a friendly earlier this year, eventually drawing 2-2 after a late Jesús Navas equalizer.

With only one defeat in 12 games, including last month’s impressive win against England at Wembley, “La Roja” is building serious momentum going into the final two friendlies before the tournament kicks off in Brazil next June. Chile is expected to beat Costa Rica in Santiago on Jan. 22 and while the Germans are favorites to triumph on March 5 in Stuttgart, a positive result against the “Die Mannschaft” is by no means unachievable.

Jorge Sampaoli, announced as Chile’s manager late in 2012, is widely praised for the manner in which he has steered the team to automatic qualification. The energetic and high-pressing style of football implemented by the Argentine, reminiscent of that witnessed under Marcelo Bielsa’s tenure as coach, prompted an instant turnaround in performances and results — as a result Chileans love him.

And with players such as attacker Alexis Sánchez and midfielder Arturo Vidal performing exceptionally well for both club and country, not to mention striker Eduardo Vargas, opposition will surely not underestimate “La Roja.”

Sampaoli was upbeat after hearing the draw but acknowledged Chile faces an uphill task to make it past the group stage.

“It is a difficult group. I like challenges but it will be difficult,” Sampaoli told media after the draw. “To play against the best will motivate the team.”

Before the draw, Louis van Gaal, head coach of the Netherlands, spoke of his admiration for Chile to La Tercera.

“Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sánchez are good, but the most important thing is the team,” he said, before speaking with Dutch media after the results were announced. “Chile is not a minor team, this is not the best draw.”

The Santiago Times previews the teams in Group B:

Spain

The Spanish national soccer team’s record speaks for itself.  After rewriting the history books in recent years, “La Furia” is now looking to become only the third team in World Cup history to successfully defend the title. As well as winning the 2010 tournament in South Africa, Spain came out on top during the last two European Championships.

One player who has caused controversy in recent months is Atlético Madrid’s Diego Costa. The Brazil-born striker, who is scoring for fun at the moment, chose to make himself available for his adopted country in a move which infuriated Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas remains as captain despite falling out of favor at Real Madrid. The defending champions will want to avoid a repeat of their Confederations Cup campaign earlier this year when they were comprehensively outplayed by host Brazil in the final — losing 3-0.

The Netherlands

After defeat to Spain in 2010, the Netherlands have now lost three World Cup finals, and the team will hope to exorcise those demons in Brazil.

The side is in fine form, only dropping points to Estonia on the way to comfortable qualification. Manager Louis van Gaal is in his second spell in charge of the team, which he has led to a 13 game unbeaten run. The core of the team that lost in the final three-and-a-half years ago remains, with Rafael van der Vaart, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder all adding vital experience to the squad.

The Dutch will hope talisman Robin van Persie can deliver after scoring 11 of the team’s 34 qualifying goals.

Australia

Australian soccer has witnessed upheaval in recent months with former coach Holger Osieck given his marching orders after consecutive 6-0 defeats to Brazil and France.

The country’s most celebrated domestic manager Angelos “Ange” Postecoglou was appointed full time head coach this October, which will make him the first Australian to lead the squad to a world cup since 1974. The “Socceroos” had a relatively simple qualifying campaign under Osieck after receiving byes in the first two rounds. The team won the third round qualifying group before finishing second in the fourth round group behind Japan.

Australia’s slim prospects in Brazil will no doubt be affected by the squad’s transitional status. Ever dependable goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has announced his retirement from international football while captain Lucas Neill will be 36 by the time of the finals. Tim Cahill remains the team’s best player and the former Everton man in perhaps the greatest threat to Chile, Spain and the Netherlands.

On Friday, Players from all three teams took to twitter to express their excitement at the draw:

 

“Nobody said it would be easy…Holland, Chile and Australia in the group!” Gerard Piqué, Spain and Barcelona midfielder.

 

Tim Cahill, Australia and New York Red Bulls attacking midfielder.

 

Nigel de Jong, Netherlands and AC Milan midfielder.

 

“We must begin by making history in the group stages!” Mauricio Pinilla, Chile and Cagliari striker.

By George Nelson (nelson@santiagotimes.cl)
Copyright 2013 – The Santiago Times

About the Author

George Nelson
George Nelson
George was working as a freelance journalist in both San Francisco and Buenos Aires before moving to Chile to work for the Santiago Times. He studied art history and journalism. He enjoys writing on environmental and social issues, and sport.