The Europeans champions, Spain, have been handed a gift in the form of Group H. Honduras, Chile and Switzerland? Vicente del Bosque would have struggled to pick a better group by himself. It should be a stroll in the park for Spain and the other three teams aren’t exactly in the kind of form that will see them have a great run.
Chile: The second best team in South America according to their qualifying campaign. However, it was a strange mix of draws, defeats and convincing wins. The fact that Argentina struggled so much was probably a huge factor into why Chile came second in qualification. Marcelo Bielsa, their manager, doesn’t have a great track record at the World Cup, leading Argentina to a first round exit eight years ago, but that might not stop Chile as they try to build on a good qualification run. Humberto Suazo was their main hope, but his injury might cost them a chance of qualification as he may be out for the first two matches in the group. That might just be enough time for them to go out of the competition if one of the other teams in the group can pull a couple of results out of the bag and doom Chile to a first round exit. They’re not a typical grinding team and they will put up a great contest against the Swiss and also against Honduras – they’ll be there or there about come the final matches of the group stages.
Honduras: What do we expect from Honduras? Well, in their last World Cup campaign, they drew 1-1 with Spain. To be fair, it wasn’t a great time for Spanish football, but don’t let that put a dampener on that result! Honduras done well to finish third in their qualification group behind Mexico and the United States, denying Jamaica and Costa Rica a place in the finals. Honduras’ main player, Wilson Palacios, plays in England and will be used to the big stage, as his team, Tottenham, have had a great season. It could be one of the greatest years of Wilson’s life – qualifying for the Champions League and playing in the World Cup. But I digress… Honduras shouldn’t pose too many problems for Chile, Switzerland and Spain, but you never know. They are minnows, but an upset might be on the cards if they can catch one of the other teams on an off day like they did back in 1982. However, like 1982, I think they might still finish bottom of the group.
Spain: The European champions with perhaps the most dangerous strike partnership in world football in Villa and Torres. In qualifying, Spain won every game, just like the Dutch, however they conceded a shocking 5 goals in those 10 game. Terrible! No, Spain done amazing things in qualifying and will be looking to do it again in Group H and beyond. Most Spaniards will see nothing but a World Cup win as a failure, but if they could at least make the final, it wouldn’t be a total bust. It would finally debunk the myth that Spain were bottlers. Yes, they won Euro 2008, but it might well have been a one-off. I can’t see it, however, and they really should go deep. This group will pose them no significant problems and if they can escape it with a healthy squad that gel at the right time, the other big guns will have to watch out.
Switzerland: Group winners in qualification, finishing top, even though they lost to Luxembourg. Yes, Luxembourg. To be fair, it might well have been the weakest group in qualifying, so don’t read too much into it. Their pre-tournament build-up hasn’t been great, losing 3-1 to Uruguay, 1-0 to Costa Rica (which doesn’t bode well for the Honduras match), but drawing 1-1 with Italy. It’s a relatively old squad, but with age comes experience and that gives them a bit of an edge over their challengers for second place. However, it might not be enough. They always under-perform on the big stage, but the one saving grace is Ottmar Hitzfeld – so successful and he’ll bring organization to the Swiss. I can see them competing well enough, but they might just struggle if it becomes a scrap against Chile and Honduras.
A tricky group to predict second place, given that we can all agree Spain are going to win Group H. The Swiss don’t look great on paper, but they do have experience. Chile are strong and should go well. Honduras, well, they’re unknown, but I can’t see them upsetting the two big teams in the group. The fact is, it should be Spain first, Chile second and, as long as they avoid an upset, it will happen.
Forecast for Group H – Spain 1st, Chile 2nd: 8/11 @
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